What are organic solvents?
Organic solvents are chemicals that dissolve other substances. Common organic solvents include alcohols, degreasers, paint thinners, and varnish removers. Lacquers, silk-screening inks and paints also contain these chemicals.
Organic solvents and pregnancy
A Canadian study found that women who were exposed to solvents on the job during their first trimester of pregnancy were about 13 times more likely than unexposed women to have a baby with a major birth defect, like spina bifida (open spine), clubfoot, heart defects, and deafness. The women in the study included factory workers, laboratory technicians, artists, graphic designers, and printing industry workers.
Other studies have found that women workers in semiconductor plants exposed to high levels of solvents called glycol ethers were almost three times more likely to miscarry than unexposed women. Glycol ethers also are used in jobs that involve photography, dyes, and silk-screen printing.
Pregnant women who work with solvents, including women who do arts and crafts at home, should minimize their exposure:
- Make sure the workplace is well ventilated
- Wear appropriate protective equipment, including gloves and a face mask.
- Never eat or drink in the work area.