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Occupational Exposures and Risk of Female Infertility

Smith, E. M. PhD, MPH, MBA; Hammonds-Ehlers, M. MS; Clark, M. K. PhD; Kirchner, H. L. MS; Fuortes, L. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 1997 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - p 138-147
Original Article

This study examined the association between occupational chemical and radiation exposures and risk of medically diagnosed infertility in 281 women compared with 216 fertile women. After adjustment for age and exposures that occurred before case/referent ascertainment, there was an increased risk of infertility among those women exposed to volatile organic solvents (odds ratio [OR], 1.74; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11 to 2.71), chemical dusts (OR. 2.66; CI, 1.17 to 6.05), pesticides (OR, 3.02; CI, 1.10 to 8.29), and video display terminals (OR, 2.21, CI, 1.22 to 4.01). Among the medically diagnosed causes of infertility, the adjusted risk associated with having an ovulatory factor increased among those women exposed to solvents (OR, 1.75; CI, 1.03 to 2.98), dusts (OR, 3.00; CI, 1.19 to 7.52), or pesticides (OR, 3.82; 1.28 to 11.42). Solvents and dusts also were associated with a higher risk of tubal-factor infertility (solvents: OR, 1.95; CI, 1.08 to 3.52; dusts: OR, 2.87; CI, 1.05 to 7.88) and endometriosis (solvents: OR, 2.13; CI, 0.96 to 4.72; dusts: OR, 3.63; CI, 0.99 to 13.28). Video display terminal exposure was more likely to be found among those women diagnosed with endometriosis (OR, 3.69; CI, 1.50 to 9.13) and cervical-factor infertility (OR, 2.65; CI, 0.99 to 7.12). Results suggest that among women with a medically confirmed diagnosis, fertility may be adversely affected by a variety of occupational chemical exposures.

From the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa (Dr Smith, Ms Hammonds-Ehlers, Mr Kirchner, Dr Fuortes); and the College of Nursing, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa (Dr Clark).

Address correspondence to: Elaine M. Smith, PhD, MPH, MBA, Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242.

© Williams & Wilkins 1997. All Rights Reserved.