REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND THE WORKPLACE

 

Examples of Jobs that could have Reproductive Hazards

What you need to know

Many workplaces have unique chemicals or work conditions. How much of a chemical you might be exposed to may be affected by:

  • workplace set-up
  • mechanical or natural ventilation (like windows or outdoor work areas)
  • work practices
  • personal protective equipment

We may be able to help if you, or your employer, are concerned about job reproductive hazards. We encourage employers to do a worksite-specific evaluation of hazards.

Learn more about reproductive hazards that might be found in common jobs

Pregnant flight attendants and pilots should select flight schedules during pregnancy to reduce exposures to cosmic ionizing radiation and circadian disruption (jet lag). Also, pregnant aircrew should try to reduce physical demands including standing, lifting, and bending from the waist.

Fine arts, pottery, or craftwork may involve exposures including solvents, heat, byproducts of burning, or heavy metals. Using proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is very important. Artists may consider postponing some art work until after pregnancy or breast feeding.

Women in child care may encounter a variety of situations which may affect their pregnancies, such as long working hours, physical demands such as heavy lifting or standing for long periods of time, or exposure to germs.

Farmworkers and greenhouse workers often handle pesticides, or work in areas where pesticides have been applied. Those who work with livestock can also be exposed to animal waste and zoonotic diseases (animal-related infections that can spread to humans). Farm equipment can also expose farm and greenhouse workers to noise and diesel fuel/exhaust, as well as high physical demands like lifting, standing, and bending repeatedly.

Fire fighters are exposed to toxic byproducts of burning and heat, as well as shift work and physical demands such as heavy lifting. Required respiratory protection (e.g. SCBA) may not be appropriate during pregnancy for several reasons. Learn more about fire fighters.

Women in healthcare may encounter a variety of situations which may affect their pregnancies, such as shift work and long working hours, physical demands such as heavy lifting or standing for long periods of time, or exposure to infectious agents. Slips and falls in healthcare facilitiesCdc-pdf are common due to wet floors (for example, around handwashing and decontamination areas). Healthcare workers may also work with chemotherapy drugs, antiviral drugs, anesthetic gases, disinfectants, X-rays, or epoxies or resins. Learn more about what healthcare workers can do to help their patients avoid job hazards, and find additional resources to help healthcare workers.

Laboratory work (in clinical or research laboratories) can involve a wide range of chemicals such as solvents, formaldehyde, ionizing radiation, and infectious agents. Lab workers should follow recommended best practices when handling infectious materials, make sure they are using biological and chemical safety cabinets correctly, and check the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for chemicals they handle to make sure they are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. In particular, not all gloves provide adequate protection for all chemicals. It is very important to match the type of glove to the type of chemical.

Formaldehyde is a commonly used preservative for embalming and dissection. Pregnant workers should evaluate whether they can temporarily avoid these activities, or reduce exposure as much as possible.

Nail and beauty salon employees are potentially exposed to dozens of chemicals including acrylates (epoxies or resins), solvents, formaldehyde, and biocides as dusts or vapors. Some chemicals commonly used in salons can enter breast milk or be carried home on skin, clothes, and shoes. Learn more about nail salons.

Office workers who are pregnant may have concerns about long working hours. In offices attached to manufacturing areas, manufacturing chemicals or solvent odors may be present in the office area. Women in office environments may also encounter physical demands such as heavy lifting or standing for long periods of time.

Women who work in restaurants and bars may be concerned about heat and the air they are breathing. Secondhand smoke, as well as smoke from grilling and frying may contain chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Increased ventilation may help to reduce exposures.

Veterinary workers often have high physical demands, such as heavy lifting or standing for long periods of time, and may work with several potentially hazardous chemicals or products that might adversely affect their reproductive health. These include antineoplastic drugs, antiviral drugs, anesthetic gases, disinfectants, X-rays, and pesticides, such as those used for flea and mite treatments. Zoonotic infections, or infections acquired from animals, are another important concern. Learn more about veterinary safety and health.

Page last reviewed: April 20, 2017