President Clinton will sign legislation spending $70 million over two years to study and inform the public about birth defects and their prevention, the White House said Tuesday.

Clinton was signing the bill without fanfare Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said. Passed overwhelmingly by the House in March - and by the Senate last year - the bill would require the health and human services secretary to coordinate an array of medical and other data on birth defects and to increase public awareness about prevention.The secretary also must establish, within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a national clearinghouse for information on birth defects, a leading cause of infant mortality that is responsible for one out of every five infant deaths.

Congressional sponsors of the bill said some 150,000 infants are born every year with serious birth defects, which can be caused by exposure to environmental hazards, poor health of the mother during pregnancy or genetic mutations.

The legislation authorizes spending up to $30 million this year and $40 million next year. The government currently provides $26 million through the CDC.