A man's occupation may increase the likelihood of birth defects in his future offspring, researchers claim.

A new study, published on line in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that several types of jobs carried out by fathers significantly increased risk of birth defects in their babies.

Researchers collected the job histories of nearly 5,000 fathers who had a child born between 1997 and 2004 with nearly 1,000 having children born with one of more birth defects and over 4,000 who did not have offspring with congenital abnormalities.

The study included defects among stillborn babies, aborted babies and live born children.

Researchers divided all occupations into 63 groups based on chemical or other kinds of exposures that are potentially dangerous to health within the job itself and within the industry.

After conducting a mathematical analysis, researchers found that while a third of all jobs types were not associated with any increased risk of birth defects, certain jobs appeared to be associated with an increased risk of having a child with a birth defect in three or more categories.

Mathematicians, physicists, artists, food service workers, drivers, hairdressers and those working in chemical industries were among the jobs associated with an increased risk of having babies with birth defects of various categories.

However, some of the occupations were found to be even more closely linked to specific types of defects.

Fathers who were artists were more likely to have children born with mouth, eyes, ears, gut, limbs or heart defects, photographers and photo processors were more likely to have offspring with cataracts, glaucoma, absence of or insufficient eye tissue, drivers were more likely to have kids born with insufficient eye tissue and glaucoma and landscapers and grounds men were likely to have children born with gut abnormalities.

While researchers did not determine specific chemical or potential harmful hazardous exposures to the risk of having an offspring with a birth defect, they concluded that the latest findings support previous research on the way fathers contribute to fetal damage and may help improve future research on specific occupational harms.

Jobs that weren't associated with an increased risk of birth defect in offspring include those working as architects, healthcare professionals, firefighters, fishermen, car assembly workers, entertainers, soldiers and commercial divers.