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Maternal occupational exposure and congenital anomalies

PhD ceremony:Ms N. (Nynke) Spinder
When:November 18, 2020
Supervisors:prof. dr. H.M. Boezen, prof. dr. H. Kromhout
Co-supervisors:H.E.K. de Walle, dr. J.E.H. (Jorieke) van Kammen-Bergman
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
Maternal occupational exposure and congenital anomalies

One in 33 infants worldwide is born with a congenital anomaly. Embryonic development is a complex process involving genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors. Disturbances in embryonic development can lead to congenital anomalies. However, the aetiology of many congenital anomalies is not yet fully understood. In the Netherlands, an increasing number of women are working during their reproductive years and their pregnancies, which increases the chances of potential teratogenic effects due to exposures in the workplace. The aim of this thesis was to examine the association between maternal occupational exposures during the periconceptional period and congenital anomalies in the offspring. This thesis shows that maternal occupational exposure to organic dust and solvents early in pregnancy is relatively common and increases the risk of orofacial clefts, neural tube defects, urinary defects, and congenital heart defects. Maternal exposures to mineral dust, pesticides, and metals are less prevalent, but increases the risk of orofacial clefts and congenital heart defects. Therefore, employers should perform careful risk inventories and evaluations at their workplace, if necessary with input from an occupational hygienist. The female workforce should be informed about their occupational exposures and educated about the recommended policies to limit teratogenic exposure as much as possible in order to reduce the risk of congenital anomalies in offspring. Employees and employers should not hesitate to consult and discuss uncertainties with occupational hygienists and/or occupational physicians.