A recent study claims the risk of miscarriage among nurses skyrockets if they handle certain chemicals.
The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. It surveyed around 7500 nurses who were pregnant between 1993 and 2002. It was the largest study of its kind.
The risk was found to doubled for the nurses exposed to chemotherapy and sterility drugs. The nurses who stayed away from the drugs had a miscarriage (or "spontaneous abortion") rate of 10% during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. That number shot up to 20% for nurses who did handle the drugs.
The chemicals are sterilization agents and antineoplastic drugs (chemotherapy), which stop rapid cell proliferation before week 12. The same numbers were also shown for nurses who handled X-rays.
Researchers were careful to note that correlation is not causation. However, they also noted that chemotherapy drugs are meant to target rapidly-dividing cells, which could possibly affect fetal cells in the same way.
In May of 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned about reducing exposure to chemotherapy drugs among health care workers. Besides miscarriage, they also warned about liver damage, kidney damage, bone marrow damage, hearing loss, infertility, and cancer.