Paternal Exposures To Environmental Toxicants

A few studies have considered the role of toxicant exposures of the father in preterm birth. Each of these studies involved exposures in the workplace.

Two studies of Norwegian historical occupational records examined the role of paternal occupational exposure and preterm birth. In the first study, paternal employment in the printing industry, which results in increased occupational exposure to lead and solvents, was not associated with preterm birth of less than or equal to 37 completed weeks of gestation but was significantly associated with an increased odds for early preterm birth at between 16 and 27 weeks of gestation (adjusted OR = 8.6; 95 percent CI = 2,7 to 27.3) (Kristensen et al., 1993). A second study found that fathers who worked at jobs with moderate to low levels of exposure to lead but not with high levels of exposure had slightly decreased odds for fathering a pregnancy that delivered preterm (adjusted OR = 0.89; 95 percent CI = 0.86 to 0.93) (Irgens et al., 1998).

A study conducted by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found no relationship between paternal occupational exposure to the dioxin TCDD and preterm birth. That study used a pharmacokinetic model to estimate worker's serum TCDD concentration at the time of conception (Lawson et al., 2004). Similarly, a study of veterans of Operation Ranch Hand, who were responsible for spraying herbicides during the Vietnam War, failed to find consistent effects of paternal exposure to TCDD (which is present in Agent Orange) on the rates of preterm birth (Michalek et al., 1998). In the latter study, the paternal dioxin level measured in 1987 or 1992 was extrapolated to the time of conception of the child to estimate the level of TCDD exposure.

In summary, the few studies that have assessed paternal toxicant exposure failed to find evidence of an increased risk for preterm birth as a result of paternal occupational exposure to lead or TCDD.

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