Chemical Hazards to Pregnant Women in the Workplace-February 2010

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

February 2010

IN THIS ISSUE: Chemical Hazards to Pregnant Women in the Workplace

Certain chemicals can impair conception, cause miscarriage, harm the fetus, and increase the chance of birth defects.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to lead, certain types of ethylene glycol ethers, pesticides, and other solvents found in oil based paints and thinners can impact pregnant women and are often found in the workplace.  These chemicals may be classified as teratogens or mutagens.  A teratogen is an agent that can cause abnormalities in the fetus. A mutagen is an agent that can cause or increase mutations in a cell that may become permanent.

“While there are many standards designed to protect workers from hazardous chemicals, few address the unique concerns of pregnant women,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH CSP. “Fortunately, you can take steps to protect this population.”

When exposure to teratogens or mutagens is present in the workplace, employers should take these actions:

1. Identify chemical hazards.  Learn which chemicals may affect pregnant women.  Review material safety data sheets (MSDS) and other sources of information on the chemicals.

2. Monitor exposure.  Conduct air monitoring and other testing on women of childbearing age who may be exposed to the identified chemicals.  Consult a physician to determine what medical tests are recommended.

3. Provide protection and training.  Provide personal protective equipment that offers protection throughout pregnancy. Take into account changes in weight and size that will take place during that time.  Train workers hazards of the identified chemicals, as well as other potential hazards related to pregnancy in the workplace.

4. Offer voluntary transfers.  Provide voluntary transfers pregnant women to areas where hazardous chemicals are not present. Please note that this may be problematic because of legal obligations, willingness of employees, and availability of work. 

See NIOSH article on workplace induced birth defects more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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