Three hundred and one women who in their most recent pregnancy had given birth to an infant with an important congenital defect were individually matched with 301 women whose children were normal. Both cases and referents were drawn from a comprehensive survey of pregnancies in Montreal, 1982-4, and limited to women employed 30 or more hours a week until at least the 13th week of gestation. Occupational exposure to chemicals was investigated and the results classified without knowledge of case-referent status. In matched pair analysis the overall frequency of chemical exposure was higher in cases than referents (63:47), due to excesses in the cardiac and miscellaneous defect groups (ratios of 10:5 and 15:7 respectively). In analyses by nine chemical categories only exposure to aromatic solvents showed a clear excess (18:8; p approximately equal to 0.04), most evident in the urinary tract group (9:0). A comparison of cases and referents exposed to aromatic solvents showed that most of the excess was associated with toluene; the defects were varied but predominantly renal-urinary or gastrointestinal.
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