Exposure to certain chemicals may increase the risk of miscarriage for nurses, researchers say.

A new study shows that nurses who worked with chemotherapy drugs or sterilizing chemicals had double the chance of losing a pregnancy than nurses who didn’t handle these materials.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) say the study confirmed fears that exposure to certain chemicals would lead to miscarriages.

Exposure may occur during the first trimester when many nurses are still unaware that they are pregnant, they say.

Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells such as those in a tumor – but a developing fetus also has rapidly dividing cells.

Previous research on the subject was inconclusive and showed different results, so for this study, researchers surveyed nearly 7,500 nurses who became pregnant between 1993 and 2002.

They asked the nurses to remember how often during each trimester they might have been exposed to certain chemicals or equipment, including X-rays, anesthesia, anti-cancer drugs and disinfectants.

One out of 10 nurses had a miscarriage before the 20-week mark, which is similar to the rate of the miscarriages in the general population.

However, the rate was double for nurses who handled chemotherapy drugs for more than one hour a day.

The risk was also higher for nurses who gave patients X-rays and nurses who handled sterilizing agents such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde.

The researchers warn that the study only drew a link between the chemicals and the miscarriages and that it did not prove that the chemicals actually caused the miscarriage.

The survey relied on the memory of the nurses as far back as 8 years sometimes, which leaves room for inaccuracies.

On the other hand, other workers (including pharmacists, drug manufacturers and veterinarians) may also be affected since they handle these chemicals as well.

Two million female nurses work in the United States, making up 4 percent of the female workforce, according to a Reuters article.

Reduce chemical exposure at work

Nurses and their employers should stick to safety guidelines and take precautions to avoid exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Electrocorp offers air cleaners for hospitals and healthcare facilities that can also help keep the air clean.

The air cleaners contain deep-bed activated carbon filters to remove a wide range of chemicals and gases (including formaldehyde and ethylene oxide), while a HEPA filter also reduces the amount of particles and allergens in the air. Optional UV germicidal filtration helps neutralize bacteria, viruses and mold.

Contact Electrocorp for more information and options.

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