Workplace Exposure to Organic Solvents Linked to Heart Birth Defects

Workplace Exposure to Organic Solvents Linked to Heart Birth DefectsExposure in the workplace to organic solvents has been linked to heart birth defects, an emerging 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, said Science Codex. Organic solvents are typically used to dissolve and disperse substances such as fats, oils, and waxes. The solvents are also used in chemical manufacturing and can be found in  paints, varnishes, adhesives, degreasing and cleaning agents, dyes, polymers, plastic, synthetic textiles, printing inks, and agricultural products, said Science Codex.

Generally, organic solvents are extremely volatile, entering our bodies through our lungs; however, the solvents can enter via our mouths and skin, Science Codex noted.

The study involved industrial hygienists assessing organic solvent workplace exposure levels in 5,000 women nationwide. Assessments were made from one month prior to the women conceiving and through their first trimester—the first three months—of pregnancy, said Science Codex. All of the babies were delivered between 1997 and 2002 and included stillbirths and terminations. The women were part of the ongoing, population-based study, the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which explores risk factors for birth defects.

The 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 hydrocarbons known as Stoddard solvents, wrote Science Codex. 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 percent of the women who delivered babies who did not have birth defects and 5 percent of those who did, were exposed to an organic solvent around when trying to conceive or when they were in the early states of pregnancy. Using the published approach, said Science Codex, these figures increased to 8 and 10 percent, respectively.

The expert consensus approach found two types of congenital heart defects were linked with exposure to any solvent and to chlorinated solvents, which were of borderline significance, said Science Codex. The published evidence approach found several more associations between congenital heart defects and organic solvent exposure.

According to the study’s authors, exposure to organic solvents in the time from one month prior to conception to early pregnancy poses a potential risk factor for a number of heart defects at birth, said Science Codex.

We recently wrote that solvents have been linked to increased risks for Parkinson’s disease, a progressive, degenerative central nervous system disorder that typically affects motor skills and speech, among other functions and, while not fatal, complications can be deadly. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. The research looked at twins and exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), which was associated with a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. A trend was seen for significance for exposure to the chemicals perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4).

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