Faculty Publications


A nested case-control study of methemoglobinemia risk factors in children of Transylvania, Romania

Document Type



Diarrheal disease, Drinking water, Methemoglobinemia, Nitrates, Nitrites, Romania

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Environmental Health Perspectives





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In this nested case-control study, we investigated the risk factors for methemoglobinemia (MHG) in 71 children in the Transylvania region of Romania. This study was unique in that the exposures for cases and controls were calculated as continuous values and were reported in milligrams per kilograms per day of nitrate/nitrite based on careful dietary reconstruction and environmental sampling. This procedure allowed us to compare point estimates of nitrate/nitrite exposure with other continuous, categoric, and ranked risk factors such as the presence or absence of diarrheal disease, reported severity of diarrheal disease, the use of vitamin supplements, the presence, absence, and/or duration of breast-feeding, and whether or not first-generation relatives experienced MHG. Analysis of these factors and exposure levels using both univariate and multivariate whole-model tests was performed to understand the relative significance of risk factors at varying levels of exposure to the development of MHG. Univariate and multifactorial analysis of risk factors for MHG underscored that, for this population, MHG is most strongly associated with nitrate/nitrite exposure through dietary route (p= 0.0318), via feeding of formula and tea made with water containing high levels of nitrates, and that breast-feeding protects infants younger than 6 months of age (p=0.0244). Our findings also raise questions about the role of diarrheal disease in the development of MHG, as likelihood ratios (likelihood 4.323, p=0.0376) and multifactorial analysis indicated a significant role for diarrheal disease for some individuals.

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