A Population-Based Case–Control Study of Extreme Summer Temperature and Birth Defects

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University at Albany, Rensselaer, New York, USA.
Environmental Health Perspectives (Impact Factor: 7.98). 10/2012; 120(10):1443-9. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1104671
Source: PubMed


Background: Although hyperthermia is a recognized animal teratogen and maternal fever has been associated with birth defects in humans, data on the relationship between high environmental temperatures and birth defects are limited.
Objective: To determine whether pregnancies are potentially vulnerable to the weather extremes anticipated with climate change, we evaluated the relationship between extreme summer temperature and the occurrence of birth defects.
Methods: We performed a population-based case–control study by linking the New York State Congenital Malformations Registry to birth certificates for the years 1992–2006. We selected nonmalformed infants from a 10% random sample of live births as controls. We assigned meteorologic data based on maternal residence at birth, summarized universal apparent temperature (UAT; degrees Fahrenheit) across the critical period of embryogenesis, and estimated adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) with multivariable logistic regression, controlling for confounders available on the birth certificate.
Results: Among 6,422 cases and 59,328 controls that shared at least 1 week of the critical period in summer, a 5-degree increase in mean daily minimum UAT was significantly associated with congenital cataracts (aOR = 1.51; 95% CI: 1.14, 1.99). Congenital cataracts were significantly associated with all ambient temperature indicators as well: heat wave, number of heat waves, and number of days above the 90th percentile. Inconsistent associations with a subset of temperature indicators were observed for renal agenesis/hypoplasia (positive) and anophthalmia/microphthalmia and gastroschisis (negative).
Conclusions: We found positive and consistent associations between multiple heat indicators during the relevant developmental window and congenital cataracts which should be confirmed with other data sources.

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