Study links solvent exposure to birth defects

Study links solvent exposure to birth defects

A study in the March 31,1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that pregnant women who were exposed to organic solvents in the workplace during the first trimester of pregnancy may have a higher risk of fetal malformations and a trend toward more miscarriages. The study concluded, “Although more prospective studies will be needed to confirm the present results, it is prudent to minimize women’s exposure to solvents during pregnancy.”

The study was conducted by researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The subjects were 125 pregnant women who were exposed occupationally to organic solvents between 1987 and 1996. The findings showed significantly more major malformations among fetuses of women exposed to organic solvents than controls: 13 vs. 1.

The occupations evaluated included cosmetics, tooling, automotive and paint manufacturing workers, laboratory technicians, artists, chemists, painters, office workers, and numerous others.

The National Paint and Coatings Association responded, “NPCA and its members are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of anyone working with their products. The association agrees that it is reasonable and prudent for pregnant women to inform their health care professionals of any occupational exposure to solvents, and encourages pregnant women to seek advice on ways to minimize potential health risks.

“There are a number of products – alcoholic beverages and many over-the-counter and prescription medicines among them – that are considered safe for most people, but not for pregnant women or their developing babies. Similarly, there are many occupations – such as chemist, artist, laboratory technician, and more that are safe under most conditions, but may involve inappropriate chemical exposure for pregnant women. While we await further studies as called for in JAMA, the study’s findings preliminarily suggest that pregnant women should add occupational exposure to organic solvents to the list of things to be acutely aware of during pregnancy.”

It’s been a bad spring for solvents: Another study, in the April, 1999 issue of Fertility and Sterility, indicated that men exposed to certain solvents in the workplace may be at risk of reduced fertility. NPCA responded, “At present, additional work needs to be done to determine the aspects of occupational and non-occupational exposures that may have accounted for the outcome. The study offers no recommendations given the uncertainty of the findings due to the small sample size.”

Copyright Finan Publishing Company, Inc. May/Jun 1999

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