Extreme winter temperature and birth defects: A population-based case-control study

Van Zutphen AR, Hsu WH, Lin S

Environ. Res. 2014 Jan;128:1-8

PMID: 24407473


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: We examined the relationship between extreme winter temperatures and birth defects to determine whether pregnant women might be vulnerable to the weather extremes expected with climate change.

METHODS: In this population-based, case-control study, we linked the New York State Congenital Malformations Registry to birth certificates (1992-2006). Cases were defined as live births with birth defects, and controls were selected from a 10% random sample of live births. We assigned meteorological data based on maternal birth residence and summarized universal apparent temperature across gestational weeks 3-8 (embryogenesis). We defined an extreme cold day as a day with mean temperature below the 10th percentile of the regional winter temperature distribution and a cold spell as 3 consecutive extreme cold days. We averaged temperature for each week of the first trimester to identify susceptible periods. We estimated adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) with multivariable logistic regression for 30 birth defects groups.

RESULTS: Among 13,044 cases and 59,884 controls with at least 1 week of embryogenesis in winter, coarctation of the aorta was associated with a 1°C decrease in mean universal apparent temperature (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.02-1.11), cold spell (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.11-2.34), and number of extreme cold days. We observed reduced odds of hypoplastic left heart syndrome and dislocated hip for some cold indicators.

CONCLUSIONS: Most birth defects were not associated with cold indicators; however, we found positive associations between cold indicators and coarctation of the aorta in the biologically-relevant developmental window which warrants replication.



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