HealthDay News — Exposure to certain substances at work increases the risk of spontaneous abortions among nurses, study data suggest.

Nurses exposed to antineoplastic drugs had a 2-fold increase in the risk for spontaneous abortion, particularly before the 12th week of pregnancy, Christina C. Lawson, PhD of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The risk was even higher among nulliparous women exposed to antineoplastic drugs, increasing 3.5-fold. Among nurses exposed to disinfectants, the researchers found similar results. The risk for spontaneous miscarriage among those exposed to sterilizing agents also increased 2-fold, but in this group miscarriages occurred during the 12th to 20th weeks of pregnancy and not during earlier stages.

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These results come from a retrospective analysis of 7,482 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which sought to  determine the affects of exposure to antineoplastic drugs, anesthetic gases, antiviral drugs, disinfectants and X-rays among U.S. nurses.

During the study period a total of 6,707 live births occurred, and 775 spontaneous abortions were documented  before 29 weeks of pregnancy. Logistic regression analyses revealed the increased risk for spontaneous abortion with exposure to antineoplastic drugs and sterilizing agents after adjusting for age, parity, shift work and hours worked.

“We encourage nurses who are pregnant, or who wish to become pregnant, to work with their employers and their health-care providers to reduce exposures during pregnancy and lactation,” the researchers wrote.

Lawson CC et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012;206(4):e1-8.