News Brief

Mothers Who Clean for a Living More Likely to Have Babies with Genital Defects

Health linkages to a variety of chemicals common in buildings, including endocrine disruptors, add to a growing list of concerns.

Fetal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during pregnancy

Kalfa N, et al. Is Hypospadias Associated with Prenatal Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors? A
French Collaborative Controlled Study of a Cohort of 300 Consecutive Children Without Genetic Defect.

Eur Urol (2015)
Sons born to professional cleaners, hairdressers, and lab workers were 68% more likely to develop hypospadias, the condition of having the opening of the urethra on the underside of the penis rather than the tip. The condition can be surgically repaired, but either way, those affected can suffer ongoing urinary and sexual problems.

Researchers, with consent from parents, studied children in the South of France where greater incidents of chemical exposure were known to occur. Chemical exposures for both biological parents of 408 hypospadiac children and 302 non-hypospadiac children were studied. The study found that jobs with more frequent chemical exposure for the biological mother were more likely to result in hypospadiac sons.

Fetuses exposed to paints, solvents, or adhesives were the most likely to experience hypospadias. Detergents, pesticides, and cosmetics also showed significant impacts, along with other industrial chemicals, including metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and herbicides. Of all the exposures studies, 78% occurred in the first trimester of pregnancy—during genital differentiation.

This is one in several studies that link chemicals that mimic human hormones, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals, to genital malformation. These chemicals include:

  • bisphenol-A (BPA), found in epoxy flooring and windows, plastic packaging, baby bottles, automobile parts, and medical devices
  • phthalates, prevalent in vinyl flooring, perfume, hair spray, shampoo, and nail polish
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, common in asphalt, pesticides, and insecticides
  • alkylphenolic compounds, found in hair products, spermicides, cleaning products, and detergents
  • organic solvents, ingredients in paints, varnishes, glues, and cleaning agents

Genetic predisposition is known to be the biggest factor in hypospadias, but all subjects with a predisposition were ruled out in this study, leaving only those relatively free from genetic bias.

However, researchers say that these chemicals could also exacerbate the risk of malformation with fetuses that have a family history.

Endocrine Disruptors Cost Society Millions, Says Report

Obesogens: A Fatty Issue

Toxic Chemicals Can Be Inherited in Utero

Published July 23, 2015

Fichman, A. (2015, July 23). Mothers Who Clean for a Living More Likely to Have Babies with Genital Defects. Retrieved from

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