Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) and the University of
Toronto (U of T) have linked maternal exposure to organic solvents in the
workplace with poorer performance on measures of neurocognitive function,
language and behavior in offspring. This research is reported in the October
2004 issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
There are many types of organic solvents, but they all share chemical
properties that make them easily inhaled and they can easily penetrate skin.
Work environments where solvents are used include manufacturing and industry
jobs involving painting and plastic adhesives, nail salons, dry-cleaning
operations and medical laboratories.
"Reducing exposure to organic solvents during pregnancy is warranted until a
more refined risk assessment is possible," said Dr. Gideon Koren, the study's
principal investigator, director of Sick Kids' Motherisk Program, a senior
scientist in the Sick Kids Research Institute, and a professor of Paediatrics,
Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Medicine and Medical Genetics at U of T. "We need to
look at dose and exposure to specific solvents, as well the time during
pregnancy of exposure."
The study looked at 32 women who were exposed to organic solvents in the
workplace for at least eight weeks of pregnancy, starting in the first
trimester, along with their children, who were between the ages of three and
nine years (at the time of testing). The exposed women reported a high level of
protective equipment use at work. These women were matched with non-exposed
women in a control group, and their children.
"We found that the children of the exposed women had significantly lower verbal
cognitive functioning than the non-exposed children in the control group.. We
also saw greater inattention and hyperactivity in the exposed children," said
Dr. Maru Barrera, a co-author of the study, a psychologist and associate
scientist at Sick Kids, and an associate professor of Population Health
Sciences and Human Development and Applied Psychology at U of T.
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