A study of handling cytotoxic drugs and risk of birth defects in offspring of female veterinarians
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We examined the association of occupational exposure to handling cytotoxic drugs at work with risk of birth defects among a cohort of female veterinarians. This study is a follow up survey of 321 female participants (633 pregnancies) who participated in the Health Risks of Australian Veterinarian project. Data on pregnancies and exposure during each pregnancy was obtained by self-administered mailed questionnaire. Female veterinarians handling cytotoxic drugs during their pregnancy had a two-fold increased risk of birth defects in their offspring (RR = 2.08, 95% CI (1.05-4.15)). Results were consistent in subgroup analysis of those who graduated during the period of 1961 to 1980 (RR = 5.04, 95% CI (1.81, 14.03) and in those working specifically in small and large animal practice. There was no increased risk in the subgroup that graduated after 1980. Women with unplanned pregnancies were more likely to handle cytotoxic drugs on a daily basis (RR = 1.86, 95% CI, 1.00-3.48) and had a higher increased risk of birth defects than those who planned their pregnancies in recent graduates and in those who worked specifically in small animal practice (RR = 2.53, 95% CI, 1.18-5.42). This study suggests that the adverse effects of handling cytotoxic drugs in pregnant women may include an increased risk of birth defects. Pregnancy intention status is an important health behavior and should be considered in prenatal programs. © 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
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