Despite warnings about potential birth defect risks associated with chemical solvents, women are still putting their pregnancies at risk by working with these chemicals. A new study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, from data collected in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, shows risks still high for women in the workplace. 


Where are Chemical Solvents Found in the Workplace?
Chemical solvents can be found in everything from printing ink to adhesives. It is likely the solvents are part of everyday jobs in the workplace and most women have no idea they are working with solvents that could cause birth defects. It must be assumed, however, that some women are working with solvents and understand the risks, but have no other option but to continue to work outside the home during pregnancy. Organic solvents can enter the body through the skin, in addition to breathing the fumes and ingesting the chemical by mouth. The skin contact was the one I was most alarmed about because even if an area is ventilated, pregnant women could still be at risk if they touch something in the workplace that’s come in contact with a solvent. 

What Birth Defects Could be Caused by Organic Solvents?
The study found increased risk of heart-related birth defects with exposure to organic solvents, but the exact risks may require additional study. Researchers believe the study results were limited and thus no specific heart defects can be named in connection with specific organic solvents, but that doesn’t mean a connection does not exist. 

Environmental concerns are being examined in multiple studies involving pregnant women. It appears that there could be environmental causes for common conditions like obesity, but there is definitely something more pressing about the possibility of a congenital heart condition due to a risk in the workplace. Pregnant women have the right to work in a safe environment and companies need to ensure there are policies in place to protect pregnant women so contact with chemical solvents during pregnancy is impossible.