Millions of Americans are exposed to organic solvents in their workplace every day. Organic solvents can be found in a variety of products such as paints, varnishes, lacquers and printing inks. Many of these organic solvents can be extremely lethal, entering areas of the body though the lungs, mouth and skin.

Research conducted by industrial hygienist, observed 5,000 women between conception and their first trimester, to evaluate the effects of organic solvent exposure on heart defects at birth. The study analyzed each woman’s delivery between 1997 and 2002 and included stillbirths and pregnancy termination. It also monitored the correlation between 15 categories of congenital heart defects and common workplace organic solvents including chlorinated solvents and aromatic solvents.

Each level of exposure was calculated according to two approaches: 1) an expert consensus-based approach and 2) an approach based on the published evidence. The expert consensus-based approach revealed four percent of mothers whose babies were not delivered with birth defects and five percent who were; all were exposed to organic solvent either between conception or the early stage of pregnancy. Using the published evidence approach the number increased to eight and ten percent. The published evidence approach disclosed additional corrections between congenital heart defects and exposure to organic solvents.

Though results were of marginal significance, researchers found when calculating exposure under the expert consensus-based approach, two types of congenital heart defects were linked to exposure of any solvent and to chlorinated solvent.

Researchers determined the result proposes exposure to organic solvents during the period from one month prior to conception to the early stages of pregnancy is a hazardous risk factor for a number of heart defects at birth.

"Despite the strengths of this analysis, the results do not allow for the drawing of definitive conclusions on specific exposure-congenital heart defect combinations," researchers stated.

All participants were a part of the National Birth Defect Prevention Study.

This study was published in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine.