Objectives: To examine whether prenatal occupational exposures, especially to organic solvents, are associated with atopic diseases in childhood.
Methods: The study comprised children born in Odense or Aalborg, Denmark between 1984 and 1987. Occupational job titles were derived from questionnaires filled out by the mothers when attending midwife centres. Assessment of organic solvent exposures was based on job titles selected by occupational specialists. A follow up questionnaire to the parents provided data on medical diagnoses as well as wheezing symptoms for 7844 children aged 14-18. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to estimate the cumulative risk for wheezing (early wheezing not diagnosed as asthma), asthma, hay fever, and atopic eczema during childhood by means of odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Explorative analyses by maternal job titles in pregnancy showed elevated odds ratios concerning different atopic diseases for occupational groups such as "bakers, pastry cooks, and confectionary makers", "dental assistants", "electrical and electronic assemblers", "sewers and embroiders", and "bookbinders and related workers". An excess risk ratio for hay fever (OR 2.8, CI 1.1 to 7.5) was found following maternal gestational exposure to organic solvents. Furthermore, a slightly raised odds ratio for asthma was observed in children of shift workers (OR 1.2, CI 1.0 to 1.5).
Conclusion: The data suggest links between certain maternal occupations during pregnancy and atopic diseases, which merits further scrutiny. However, no consistent pattern was seen across the different atopic diseases.