Exposure in the workplace to organic solvents has been linked to heart birth defects, a study has revealed.
The study published online in occupational and environmental medicine, found that solvents were linked to a number of heart defects at birth. Organic solvents are typically used to dissolve and disperse substances such as oil, fats and waxes. The solvents are also used in chemical manufacturing and can be found in paints, varnishes, adhesives, de-greasing and cleaning agents, dyes, plastic, synthetic textiles, printing inks and agricultural products.
Generally, organic solvents are extremely volatile entering our bodies through our lungs. However, the solvents can enter through our mouths and skin also.
The study involved industrial hygienists assessing organic solvent workplace exposure levels in 5,000 women nationwide. Assessments were made 1 month prior to the women conceiving and through their first trimester of pregnancy. All of the babies were delivered between 1997-2002 and included still births and terminations. The women were all part of the on-going population based study, the national birth defect prevention study which explores risk factors for birth defects.
The study team looked at links between congenital heart defects and exposure to various, common organic solvents found in the workplace such as chlorinated solvents, aromatic solvents and a mix of C10 or higher hydro carbons known as Stoddard solvents. Exposure levels were measured using two methods, an expert Consensus based approach and a published evidence approach.
The expert Consensus approach revealed that about 4% of the women who delivered babies who did not have birth defects and 5% of those who did, were exposed to an organic solvent around the time they were trying to conceive or when they were in the early stages of pregnancy.
The expert Consensus approach found 2 types of congenital heart defects were linked with exposure to any solvent and to chlorinate its solvents, which were borderline significant. The published approach found several more associations between congenital heart defects and organic solvent exposure.
Solvents have been previously linked to increased risks for Parkinson’s disease, a progressive degenerative central nervous system disorder that typically affects motor skills and speech. The cause is unknown and there is no cure.