For the majority of chemicals used in the workplace, although there is knowledge of general toxicity, there are no robust data quantifying fetal outcomes following exposure in human pregnancy.
In most cases of chemical exposure in a pregnant woman, maternal toxicity is likely to be a major determinant of risk to the fetus. However, due to a lack of data relating to the potential teratogenicity of most chemicals, it is not possible to state that an absence of maternal toxicity excludes the possibility of adverse fetal effects.
It is therefore important to read product labels and safety data sheets before using chemicals and to use chemicals in the recommended way.
If a pregnant woman is likely to come into contact with chemicals at work, an occupational health assessment is recommended as early in pregnancy as possible.
1. Exposure to chemicals should be kept to a minimum; certainly within the occupational exposure standards (OESs) and maximum exposure limits (MELs) recommended by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.
2. Exposure should not be associated with symptoms suggestive of toxicity.
3. The work area should be well ventilated.
4. Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as protective clothing, masks, and gloves should be utilised if appropriate, and good working practices maintained.
5. If maternal toxicity occurs, further exposure to the chemical should be ceased immediately and a full occupational health assessment undertaken.
6. If toxic symptoms occur the exposed party should attend A&E and/or advice should be sought from the national poisons information service (NPIS).
7. Where maternal toxicity has occurred, additional fetal monitoring or intervention may be indicated, taking into account the stage of pregnancy at which the exposure occurred.
Where advice is required regarding exposure during pregnancy to a specific chemical please refer to the individual UKTIS monograph if available, or contact UKTIS for more information. The full list of available monographs is at uktis.org
This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.
If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.
If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.