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Solvent use and time to pregnancy among female personnel in biomedical laboratories in Sweden


OBJECTIVES To elucidate possible effects on fecundability from chemical, biological, and physical agents in laboratories, a retrospective study based on a questionnaire was conducted among female personnel who worked in Swedish biomedical research laboratories. Female personnel in non-laboratory departments were used as a reference group. The maximum number of women included in the analyses was 560. This corresponded to 2519 menstrual cycles. These women had given birth at least once during the period 1990–4.

METHODS Time to pregnancy was used to estimate the fecundability—that is, probability of conception of a clinically detectable pregnancy per cycle. The fecundability ratio (FR) between exposed and unexposed cycles was calculated with a discrete time analogue of the Cox's proportional-hazards model. The FR estimates below unity indicate subfecundity.

RESULTS Work with organic solvents in general in laboratory work, gave a decreased adjusted fecundability ratio (FR) of 0.79 (95% confidence interval (95 % CI) 0.68 to 0.93). Moreover, work with acetone and use of viruses also showed decreased FRs, 0.72 (0.53 to 0.97) and 0.66 (0.49 to 0.90), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS The results of the present study give some indications of reduced fecundability for work with specific agents in laboratories, and support previously reported findings of a negative influence of organic solvents on fecundity among female laboratory personnel.

  • laboratory work
  • organic solvents
  • time to pregnancy

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