Adverse reproductive outcomes among male painters with occupational exposure to organic solvents

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To assess the risks of reproductive disorders and birth defects in offspring of male painters with exposure to organic solvents, and to determine the shape of the dose-response relationship.


Random samples of painters and carpenters were drawn from workers affiliated with the Dutch Trade Union for Construction Workers, the Netherlands, 2001. Information on reproductive outcomes, occupational exposures, and lifestyle habits was retrospectively obtained through self-administered questionnaires filled in by 398 painters exposed to organic solvents in paints, thinners, and cleansers in the period of three months before the last pregnancy, and 302 carpenters with little or no exposure to solvents. A statistical model was used to estimate quantitative exposure measures.


Workers employed as painters at three months before pregnancy had an increased risk (odds ratio 6.2, 95% CI 1.4 to 27.9) of congenital malformations in offspring compared to carpenters. There was a positive exposure-response trend with increasing exposure to organic solvents based on quantitative model predicted exposure estimates using toluene as a marker. There was some indication of an increased risk of functional developmental disorders in offspring among painters with intermediate and high model predicted exposure. The risk of low birth weight children seemed to be slightly increased among painters as well. Results for other reproductive outcomes (time to pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, and preterm birth) did not show increased risks.


This study showed a positive association between paternal occupational exposure to organic solvents and congenital malformations in offspring. However, the small numbers of cases, especially when examining different exposure levels, as well as the self-reported nature of exposure and outcome variables, may hamper interpretation of the results.

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