Researchers have discovered that the risk of birth defects may be increased by the type of work the father did before the baby was conceived.
The study, by researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, relies on data from the U.S. National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The study is an ongoing examination of the potential risk factors that apply to the most common types of birth defects, and is one of the largest of such studies ever conducted in the United States.
The study is the most extensive to date to examine which jobs are linked to which birth defects. The researchers gathered job histories from approximately 10,000 fathers who had children born with birth defects from 1997-2004. They also examined the work histories of about 4,000 fathers of children without birth defects. The occupations were classified into 63 groups, depending on potential exposure to chemicals and other hazards.
Many jobs that might seem to carry with them certain risks turned out not to be associated with a higher risk of birth defects, including medical professionals, firefighters, automobile assembly workers, fishermen, smelters, stonemasons, soldiers and commercial divers.
Other occupations were linked to specific defects. Photographers and photo processors were linked to cataracts, glaucoma and eye tissue disorders, while artists were associated with abnormalities of the heart, limbs, mouth, eyes and ears.
Drivers were also linked with eye disorders, while landscaping workers were associated with gut abnormalities.
The researchers cautioned that the study is preliminary, and they would not advise anyone to change jobs because of the results.