Rates of spontaneous abortions were determined using a reproductive questionnaire administered by personal interview to 55 married women with 105 pregnancies. They were employed in an audio speaker factory and were exposed to high concentrations of toluene (mean 88, range 50-150 ppm). These rates of spontaneous abortion were compared with those among 31 women (68 pregnancies) who worked in other departments in the same factory and had little or no exposure to toluene (0-25 ppm), as well as with a community control group of women who underwent routine antenatal and postnatal care at public maternal health clinics (190 women with 444 pregnancies). Significantly higher rates for spontaneous abortions were noted in the group with high exposure to toluene (12.4 per 100 pregnancies) compared with those in the internal control group (2.9 per 100 pregnancies) and in the external control group (4.5 per 100 pregnancies). Among the exposed women, significant differences were also noted in the rates of spontaneous abortion before employment (2.9 per 100 pregnancies) and after employment in the factory (12.6 per 100 pregnancies). Almost all the women were nonsmokers and did not drink; other known risk factors such as maternal age at pregnancy, order of gravidity, and race were not likely to explain the results. Thus, specific exposure to toluene seems to be associated with a risk of foetal loss.
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