Solvents and pregnancy

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Solvents are chemicals that dissolve other substances. Solvents include alcohols, degreasers, paint thinners and stain and varnish removers. Lacquers, silk-screening inks and paints contain solvents.

You may work with solvents or use solvents in your home. But they may cause problems for you and your baby if you’re exposed to them during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, stay away from solvents.

How can solvents affect your pregnancy?

If you inhale (breathe in) solvents, you risk liver, kidney and brain damage and even death. During pregnancy, exposure to (coming in contact with) solvents, especially if you work with them, may cause problems for you and your baby, including:

  • Miscarriage. This is when your baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Slow growth in the womb
  • Premature birth. This is when your baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Birth defects. These are health conditions that a baby has at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops, or in how the body works.

How can you protect yourself from solvents during pregnancy?

Here’s what you can do:

  • If you work with solvents at your job, talk to your boss. Tell her you’re pregnant. You may be able to change job responsibilities to help keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy.
  • Air out your work area. Open a window or use a fan. 
  • Wear safety clothes, like gloves and a face mask. 
  • Don’t eat or drink in your work area. Wash your hands before eating.

Last reviewed: September, 2014