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Issues - Plaintiff sued the city of Bloomfield, KY, claiming that contaminants, specifically trihalomethanes (THMs), in drinking water supplied by the City of Bloomfield are likely to have caused orofacial clefting deformities in children born in Bloomfield, KY in 2001.

Role - Expert Witness for defendant - City of Bloomfield, KY

Facts of the Case - The prevalence of disinfection by-products in drinking water supplies has raised concerns about possible adverse health effects from chronic exposure to these compounds. Trihalomethanes are formed as a by-product when chlorine is used as a disinfectant to control microbial contaminants in water. They result from the reaction of chlorine and/or bromine with organic matter present in the water being treated. Trihalomethanes are prevalent in public water supplies because most use chlorination as a disinfection technology. In 2003, the EPA limited the maximum allowable annual average total concentration of the four chief constituents (chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and dibromochloromethane)-referred to as total trihalomethanes (TTHM)-from 100 to 80 parts per billion in treated water. Plaintiff claimed that contaminants in drinking water supplied by the City of Bloomfield caused orofacial clefting deformities in children born in Bloomfield, KY in 2001.

My Analysis - Evaluated all scientific data pertaining the alleged reproductive and teratogenic risks of total trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Reviewed all scientific literature relevant peer-reviewed scientific articles from PubMed (a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that is comprised of over 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books) including animal studies, human epidemiological studies, in vitro studies and relevant basic science articles related to the principles of teratology and reproductive toxicology. In addition, all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents related to trihalomethanes in drinking water were reviewed, as were all depositions given that were relevant to said case. This provided the scientific basis for evaluation of the opinion of the plaintiffs scientific expert. Based on an the relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature that report studies that have sought an association between exposure to TTHM and congenital anomalies-and particularly cleft palate-one must conclude that the overwhelming body of published scientific evidence-virtually all extant published reports-fails to support an association between TTHM exposure and orofacial clefting!

Conclusion - Ruling for defendant city of Bloomfield, KY

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Robert M. Greene, PhD, received his degree in Anatomy / Developmental Biology from the University of Virginia and obtained postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health. As a professor at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, he conducted NIH funded research into the Genetic and Biochemical Causes of Various Birth Defects, including cleft lip, cleft palate, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

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