Volatile organic compound exposure during pregnancy may hinder infant development
Greater exposure to total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) appears to have an adverse effect on early postnatal growth, according to a study.
The study included 383 pregnant women enrolled from 2006 to 2008, and maternal characteristics were examined using a questionnaire. Personal air samples of TVOCs were collected during mid- or late-pregnancy. Following childbirth, 360 singleton newborns were selected. Postnatal follow-up data were obtained at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months, in addition to anthropometric factors including body weight.
Mean concentration of prenatal exposure to TVOCs and formaldehyde was 284.2 and 81.6 μg/m3, respectively.
In multiple general linear and mixed models, prenatal TVOC exposure was associated with a significantly reduced birthweight of neonates (p=0.04). The adjusted mean bodyweight was 300-g lower in the high-exposure TVOC group (≥75th percentile value) than in the low-exposure group (<75th). The 75th percentile value of TOVC exposure was 374.0 µg/m3.
The present data suggest that prenatal exposure to TVOC as well as their household environment should be considered as possible factors that hinder infant development, researchers said.
While unknown, the underlying mechanism of how hazardous indoor air pollutants affect the foetus and reduce infantile growth involves oxidative stress, which is induced by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene or toluene. [Sci Total Environ 2010;408:4461-67; Gynecol Obstet Invest 2007;64:187-92]
“Precautionary and preventive actions should be taken to avoid hazardous toxicants as well as to reduce the potential for adverse health effects,” they added.
Expectant mothers are inclined to spend more time indoors during the latter part of pregnancy. It is said that during this period, activities such as papering or buying new items for upcoming baby may result in elevated exposure to air contaminants (ie, VOCs such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene and their totals) for pregnant women. [J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2009;19:317]