Canada Study Details Pregnancy Chemical Hazard
CHICAGO Children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy to common workplace chemicals scored lower on tests measuring language skills, attention, and memory, researchers said Monday.
Organic solvents such as ethanol, mineral spirits, and acrylic resin are found in facilities ranging from medical laboratories and dry cleaning shops to nail salons. They are easily inhaled and can penetrate the skin.
The report from Canada's Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto compared 32 children aged 3 to 9 whose mothers were exposed to the substances during pregnancy to 32 children whose mothers were not.
The women who worked in places with organic solvents used protective equipment such as masks and gloves, the study said.
"We found that the children of the exposed women had significantly lower verbal cognitive functioning than the nonexposed children," said Maru Barrera, a co-author of the study. "We also saw a greater inattention and hyperactivity in the exposed children."
The exposed mothers reported contact with one or more of 78 organic solvents between one and 40 hours per week and between eight and 40 weeks of their pregnancies, the study said. They had 17 occupations, including lab technician, painter, photo lab worker, science teacher, embalmer, and hair stylist.
"Exposed children performed at a lower level than control children in subtests that measure short-term auditory memory, general verbal information, and attention. Furthermore, children who were exposed to organic solvents in utero showed reduced ability in recalling sentences, even when their (overall) scores were within the normal range," the study concluded.
"Reducing exposure in pregnancy is merited until more refined risk assessment is possible," said the report published in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.