Evaluation of the association between birth defects and exposure to ambient vinyl chloride

Authors

  • Gilles Thériault,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4
    • Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, McGill University, 1130 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A3
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  • Hilda Iturra,

    1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4
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  • Suzanne Gingras

    1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4
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Abstract

Birth defects incidence for infants born to residents of Shawinigan, Canada in 1966–1979 were significantly higher than in three comparison communities. Since there has been a vinyl chloride polymerization plant in this town since 1943 from which ten cases of angiosarcoma of the liver have been identified, this study explores the possible association between exposure to vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) in ambient air and the occurrence of birth defects in the community. The excess of birth defects fluctuated seasonally in a way that corresponded to changes in VCM concentration in the environment. Mothers who gave birth to malformed children were younger on average in Shawinigan than in the comparison communities. However, there was no excess of still-births in Shawinigan. The excess in birth defects involved most organ systems, and variation in birth-defect rates among school districts could not be accounted for by estimates of VCM in the atmosphere. The occupational and residential histories of parents who gave birth to malformed infants were compared with those of parents of normal infants. The two groups did not differ in occupational exposure or closeness of residence to the vinyl chloride polymerization plant. Some descriptive data from this study raised the hypothesis of an association between VCM in the air and birth defects in the exposed community, but as a whole, within the sample size available, such an association could not be substantiated.

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