Objectives: To examine the relationship between occupational exposures and spontaneous abortion in female veterinarians.
Methods: The Health Risks of Australian Veterinarians project (HRAV) was conducted as a questionnaire-based survey of all graduates from Australian veterinary schools during the 40-year period 1960-2000. Of 5,748 eligible veterinarians who were sent the questionnaires, 2,800 replied including 1,197 females (42.8%). The response rate was 59% of women veterinarians eligible to participate. The pregnancy of women was defined as the unit of analysis. We restricted analyses to pregnancies of those women who reported being employed when the pregnancy began and were working only in clinical practice. Of 1,355 pregnancies in total in the file, 940 pregnancies were eligible for the final analysis. Self-reported occupational exposures to anesthetic gases, x-rays, pesticides and long working hours in relation to spontaneous abortion were examined.
Results: In a multiple logistic regression controlling for the 12 potential confounders, there was more than two-fold significant increase (OR: 2.49 95% CI: 1.02, 6.04) in the risk of spontaneous abortion in women exposed to un-scavenged anesthetic gases for one or more hours per week. Veterinarians who reported performing more than five radiographic examinations per week had a statistically significant elevated risk of spontaneous abortion compared to those who performed less than five (OR:1.82 95%:CI:1.17-2.82). There was also about two–fold significant increased risk of spontaneous abortion in women who used pesticides at work (OR:1.88 95% CI: 1.18-3.00).
Conclusion: Female veterinarians, particularly those of childbearing age, should be fully informed of the possible reproductive effects of un-scavenged anesthetic gases, ionizing radiation and pesticide exposure and reduce their exposure by use of protective devices during pregnancy and the time when they are planning to become pregnant.