Reproductive outcomes in a population exposed long-term to inorganic selenium via drinking water

Marco Vinceti, Cristina Isabel Cann, Elisa Calzolari, Roberto Vivoli, Livia Garavelli, Margherita Bergomi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite being an essential element in mammals and lower animals at very low doses, selenium is recognized as a teratogen and a growth-inhibiting substance in several animal species. Some inorganic selenium compounds also been shown to be mutagenic and pro-oxidant: however, very little is known about their effects on human reproduction. Between 1972 and 1988, a few thousand residents in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, northern Italy, were accidentally exposed to drinking water with unusually high levels of inorganic selenium (selenate), range 7-9 μg/l, through a local public water supply system. We found no deleterious effect on overall body weight and length of newborns and stillborns delivered by 18 women previously exposed to high-selenium tapwater. Rates of spontaneous abortions, however, were increased slightly (RR=1.73; 95% CI=0.62-4.80), compared with rates among unexposed women from the same municipality. From 1980 through 1988 the prevalence of congenital malformations at birth among the exposed population was similar to that expected, but estimates were imprecise owing to small numbers. Results do not suggest marked effects on human reproduction from chronic exposure to selenate in drinking water at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 24 2000


  • Birth defects
  • Birth weight
  • Drinking water
  • Environment
  • Epidemiologic studies
  • Human
  • Registries
  • Reproduction
  • Selenate
  • Selenium
  • Spontaneous abortion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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