Background: This in-depth review summarizes and interprets the available recent epidemiologic evidence on the relationship between occupational exposures and negative reproductive outcome among women workers.
Methods: The studies examined by the review include those published in the international scientific literature since 1990, and were identified through the search of relevant data banks using selected keywords.
Results: From the examination of studies dealing with exposures of women to chemical agents, pesticides, physical agents, ergonomic factors and stress, it appears that at present the evidence is sufficient to warrant the maximum protection of pregnant women to several well-documented occupational risk factors. These include exposures to anaesthetic gases, antineoplastic drugs, heavy metals, solvents, heavy physical work and irregular work schedules. For other work risks, such as exposure to non-ionizing radiation and psychosocial work stress, the evidence is often suggestive but not conclusive.
Conclusions: Policy makers and health professionals should advise women and employers to avoid exposure to the well-known occupational risk factors, while epidemiologic research should pursue methodological improvements and provide more insight into the magnitude of exposures responsible for detrimental effects.