Background: The aim of the study was to investigate whether exposure to formaldehyde, organic solvents or other chemicals in the wood-processing industry affects the fertility of women.
Methods: For this purpose, a retrospective study on time to pregnancy was conducted among female wood workers who had given birth during 1985-1995. Data on pregnancy history, time to pregnancy, occupational exposures, and potential confounders were collected by a questionnaire; 64% (699/1,094) participated. The exposure assessment was conducted by an occupational hygienist. The data on time to pregnancy were analyzed with the discrete proportional hazards regression.
Results: Exposure to formaldehyde was significantly associated with delayed conception: adjusted fecundability density ratio, FDR, was 0.64 (95% CI 0.43-0.92). At high exposure if no gloves were used, the FDR was 0.51 (% CI 0.28-0.92). Exposure to phenols, dusts, wood dusts, or organic solvents was not related to the time to pregnancy. Additionally, an association was observed between exposure to formaldehyde and an increased risk of spontaneous abortion (concerning previous spontaneous abortions, reported by the women). Associations between exposure to formaldehyde or to organic solvents and endometriosis, and between exposure to organic solvents or to dusts and salpingo-oophoritis were also suggested.
Conclusions: The study suggests that a woman's occupational exposure to formaldehyde has an adverse effect on fertility.