Female veterinarians have twice the risk of miscarrying as a result of increased exposure to anesthesia gases and pesticides, according to a study released on April 1, 2008 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. These results highlight a warning for all young female vets, who must be made more informed of the inherent risks should they want to become pregnant.
This work was done as part of a study known as the Health Risks of Australian Veterinarians Project (HRAV), surveying all graduates from Australian veterinary schools between 1960 and 2000.
In all, 5,700 graduates were contacted, of which 2,800 responded. Of these, 1,200 were women. Within these female respondents there were 1,355 pregnancies reported, 940 of which took place while the woman was working in clinical practice. This group of pregnancies was considered eligible for inclusion in the study.
Women who carried out surgeries and were exposed to unfiltered anesthesia gases for an hour or more a week had 2.5 times the chance of miscarriage. The same was true for vets who used pesticides in their work.
Female veterinarians who performed x-rays more than five times a week had 1.8 times the chance of miscarrying. The trend appears to be consistent over time, as when the analysis was restricted to recent graduates (between 1980 and 2000), the results were similar.
This prompts the authors of the study to sound a warning to female vets who are of childbearing age, that they "should be fully informed of the possible reproductive effects of ionizing radiation, unscavenged anesthetic gases, and exposure to pesticides."
This warning could potentially apply to other staff members in equine veterinary practices as well. Thus, the authors advise that these women should take protective measures when planning to conceive and during gestation.
Article title: Maternal occupational exposures and risk of spontaneous abortion in veterinary practice
Authors: A Shirangi, L Fritschi, CDJ Holman
Journal cited: Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2008
This summary was brought to the HoofBlog's attention through a daily RSS feed from Medical News Today, a news aggregation service for the medical profession. The summary appears with the permission of the editor.
Photo at top by photographer Jan Verbeke, aka JeBeKe, of Belgium.