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Worksite Health

Exposure to Chemicals While Pregnant

01/26/2010

Question:

My boss is changing to a new industrial strength cleaner with high doses of sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide in it. Will long hours of exposure to this hurt me as I am 14 weeks pregnant?

Answer:

Sodium hypochlorite is an irritant to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and will irritate the lungs and gastrointestinal tract if it is inhaled or ingested in large amounts. Sodium hydroxide is even more corrosive to the same tissues. If you wear personal protective equipment and take care not to let the chemical into your breathing zone, you should be ok. Try to have the area you're working in be well ventilated.

There were no data available on developmental toxicity (or possible risk to your developing fetus) of the chemical. It has not been found to be a human carcinogen. I would recommend that you do everything you can to avoid both these and any other chemicals/toxins you may come into contact with at work. Is there another job you can do while you're pregnant, or can you find a way to work around direct contact with potentially hazardous materials?

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Response by:

J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University