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Chemical exposure in the workplace increases risk of birth defects

October 11, 2012

French researchers have discovered that women who are pregnant and come into contact with commonly handled workplace solvents could risk giving birth to a child who has defects.

The medical journal Epidemiology published a report recently that discovered that pregnant women with increased levels of chemicals that include glycol ethers and bleach in their urine had an increased chance of giving birth to a child who has a cleft lip, cleft palate and other defects.

Nearly 50 percent of the women who had babies with severe birth defects were discovered to have been exposed to different solvents regularly while in their workplaces, the research report revealed.

The study examined nearly 4,000 women and asked them to answer questions on solvent exposure while at work. Urine samples were also collected from these women. Around 3 percent of the women who took part in the study had children who were born with birth defects.

Researchers discovered that 45 percent of the women who later on gave birth to a child with major defects had indicated that previously they had worked on a regular basis with solvents which included nursing staff, chemists, beauticians and cleaners. Just 28 percent of women who gave birth to babies who had no defects worked with solvents regularly.

The researchers claimed they had found a relationship related to dosage between solvent exposure and the percentage of birth defects, particularly those which included oral cleft, male genital defects and urinary tract defects.

Cleft lip palate takes place when portions of the palate or lip do not fuse together completely. The defects that children are born with could include a notched or open groove that extends from the nose to the roof of the mouth. Cleft lips can inflict problems with talking and eating and can raise the risk of getting ear infections which could mean surgery is necessary.