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Maternal occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and small for gestational age offspring
  1. Peter H Langlois1,
  2. Adrienne T Hoyt1,
  3. Tania A Desrosiers2,
  4. Philip J Lupo3,
  5. Christina C Lawson4,
  6. Martha A Waters4,
  7. Carissa M Rocheleau4,
  8. Gary M Shaw5,
  9. Paul A Romitti6,
  10. Suzanne M Gilboa7,
  11. Sadia Malik8,
  12. and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study
  1. 1Texas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, Birth Defects Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
  4. 4National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  5. 5Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, USA
  6. 6Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  7. 7National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  8. 8Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter H Langlois, Texas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, Texas Department of State Health Services, PO Box 149347, MC 1964, Austin, TX 78714–9347, USA; peter.langlois{at}


Objectives While some of the highest maternal exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) occur in the workplace, there is only one previous study of occupational PAH exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes. We sought to extend this literature using interview data combined with detailed exposure assessment.

Methods Data for 1997–2002 were analysed from mothers of infants without major birth defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a large population-based case-control study in the USA. Maternal telephone interviews yielded information on jobs held in the month before conception through delivery. From 6252 eligible control mothers, 2803 completed the interview, had a job, met other selection criteria, and were included in the analysis. Two industrial hygienists independently assessed occupational exposure to PAHs from the interview and reviewed results with a third to reach consensus. Small for gestational age (SGA) was the only adverse pregnancy outcome with enough exposed cases to yield meaningful results. Logistic regression estimated crude and adjusted ORs.

Results Of the 2803 mothers, 221 (7.9%) had infants who were SGA. Occupational PAH exposure was found for 17 (7.7%) of the mothers with SGA offspring and 102 (4.0%) of the remaining mothers. Almost half the jobs with exposure were related to food preparation and serving. After adjustment for maternal age, there was a significant association of occupational exposure with SGA (OR=2.2, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.8).

Conclusions Maternal occupational exposure to PAHs was found to be associated with increased risk of SGA offspring.

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