chemical exposure during pregnancyWomen who work during pregnancy are at increased risk of coming in contact with toxicants, including solvents. Researchers in France recently published a study on the effects of solvents on childhood behavior by age two in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study was conducted using information collected by PELAGIE (Perturbateurs Endocriniens: Etude Longitudinale sur les Anomalies de la Grossesse, l'Infertilite et l'Enfance) – a mother/child cohort.

Participants in the study were followed from the beginning of pregnancy through the second birth of offspring. Various behaviors were documented, including ADHD, opposition, aggression and emotionality.

About 20% of the women in the study reported occasionally coming in contact with solvents. About 30% of women reported regularly coming in contact with solvents. Children born after prenatal exposure scored higher on aggression and ADHD tests. There was a parallel increase in scores and exposure. Mothers who reported being regularly exposed to solvents were more likely to give birth to infants who scored higher on aggression and ADHD tests.

Researchers believe the connection between solvent exposure during pregnancy and increased risk of ADHD and aggression is strong enough to pose public health risk. Pregnant women need to be educated on the possible side effects of solvent exposure. Moreover, employers need to be made aware of the risk through education and/or changes in public policy pertaining to employment during pregnancy.

For the sake of the study, participants were enrolled prior to the 19th week of gestation. Singleton pregnancies were included in the study, but multiples were not. Questionnaires were sent out to qualifying families around the child’s second birthday. Mothers deceased before the second birthday and children who turned 2 ½ before the sending of the questionnaire were excluded. Of the 1,970 questionnaires sent, 1,359 were returned.

Children with diagnosed conditions that could attribute to changes in behavior were excluded. Mothers were asked to answer 15 questions about child behavior for the study.

Eleven solvents were included in the study – cosmetics, cleaning agents/detergents, textile treatment agents, grease removers, glues, gasoline, inks, varnishes, dyes, paints and strippers.

Source: Fabienne Pele, Gina Muckle, Nathalie Costet, Ronan Garlantezec, Christine Monfort, Luc Multigner, Florence Rouget, Sylvaine Cordier. Occupational Solvent Exposure During Pregnancy and Child Behaviour at Age 2. Occup Environ Med. 2013;70(2):114-119.