TORONTO -- 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 behaviour 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.
Other members of the research team included Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker, the study's lead author, Dafna Knittel-Keren, Dr. Eran Kozer, Dr. Jacob Wolpin, Dr. Sohail Khattak, Dr. Richard Hackman, and Dr. Joanne Rovet, all from Sick Kids.
The study was supported by Physician Services Inc. and Sick Kids Foundation. Dr. Laslo-Baker received a doctoral research award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Dr. Koren holds a CIHR Senior Investigator Award and is the holder of the Research Leadership in Better Pharmacology During Pregnancy and Lactation and The Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at the University of Western Ontario.
The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health.
Pregnant women exposed to organic solvents in the workplace can call Sick Kids' Motherisk Program at 416-813-6780 for further information.
Materials provided by University Of Toronto. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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