Exposure to Chemical Solvents Raise Birth Defect Concerns

Pregnant women who are frequently exposed to chemical solvents in the workplace, including paint, cleaning products and even cosmetics, appear to be at higher risk of having babies with birth defects, studies indicate.

According to a French study, self-reported exposure by both pregnant women and their urine samples supported the link between the chemicals and birth defects such as cleft palate and limb deformities, the journal Epidemiology reported.

Based on questionnaires from the pregnant women, 45% of those who delivered babies with major malformations reported “regular” exposure to solvents at work. These women were typically nurses, chemists, cleaners, hairdressers or beauticians. By contrast, of the women who had babies without birth defects, only 28% had regular contact with solvents at work.

“These results identify work situations that require further investigation,” Cordier and her colleagues concluded.

Specifically, bleach-containing solvents and glycol ethers, often found in cleaning products, paints and cosmetics, are of concern, the study said. Concentrated fumes from both types of chemicals are toxic to humans, and glycol ethers in particular cause birth defects and developmental problems in animals, including testicular damage, reduced fertility, early embryonic death, birth defects and delayed development.

Common Solvents Tied to Birth Defects

Glycol ethers are a large group of organic solvents used in industry and the home as glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor cleaners and oven cleaners. One form of glycol ether is acetate-based fingernail polish remover. The compound is also found in dyes, inks, paints, stains and varnishes, and is a component of many cosmetics and perfumes.

The most common means of exposure to glycol ethers is by breathing in the fumes, but contact on the skin can be problematic as well. Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. And children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.
The researchers were led by Sylvaine Cordier of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Rennes, France, and said that previous studies had not looked at urine samples. The research was not conclusive that the overall risk to chemical solvents was significant, with less than 3% of the more than 3,000 pregnant women in the study giving birth to children with deformities.

How We Help Victims of Toxic Exposure

The attorneys of our birth defects victims alliance understand the pain that families face when coping with life-altering birth defects—and the frustration of knowing they could have been prevented. Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving toxic exposure. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations who put them in danger. Contact us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.