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Pregnancy and Solvents

A large number of industrial solvents are known via laboratory testing to be teratogenic to animals. This is known because researchers have systematically exposed various animals to most of these solvent types of chemicals, and these test animals often developed a malformed fetus. The observed malformations being found in the animal studies include the following: limb and central nervous system defects in mice, slow development and skeletal retardation in rats; and abnormal physical deformities in rabbits.

Many women of childbearing age are currently being exposed to organic solvents at the places where they work. Ironically, work in the health care professions and work in the clothing and textile industries involve a high level of exposure to organic solvents and these jobs are dominated by women employees.

A ten-year study was recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that attempted to evaluate pregnancy and fetal outcomes following maternal occupational exposure to organic solvents. This study had been conducted in Toronto, Canada and compared the outcomes of two groups of 125 pregnant women. One group were those which had been exposed occupationally to a potential solvent during their first trimester, and the other “control” group had not been exposed to such a potential teratogen.

The exposed group had 13 offspring with malformation damage; the control group had only one. The research team concluded that significantly more major malformations occurred among the fetuses of women who had been exposed to an organic solvent. They further recommended that a woman’s exposure to organic solvents should be minimized during pregnancy.

(Pregnancy Outcome Following Gestational Exposure to Organic Solvents – A Prospective Controlled Study; Shattak et al; JAMA, March 24/31/1999)


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