Washington, Apr 13 : Female veterinarians who fail to protect themselves from x-rays and anaesthetic gases double their risk of having miscarriage, says a new study.
Western Australian researchers conducted their study on more than 1,200 female graduates from Australian veterinary schools over a 40-year period and found that exposure to occupational dangers such as x-rays, anaesthetic gases and pesticides could have adverse effects on pregnancy and fertility.
"The worrying findings showed that female veterinarians exposed to an hour or more of anaesthetic gases or exposed to pesticides during the course of their duties were twice as likely to miscarry during pregnancy," said Lin Fritschi, associate professor from Western Australian Institute for Medical Research.
"We also found that two out of three veterinarians surveyed spent five or more hours a week in an operating suite or recovery room area, and nearly a quarter of these vets did not take steps to reduce their exposure to anaesthetic gases.
"While eight in 10 vets were found to use lead aprons to protect themselves when taking x-rays, a great deal of them did not use other protective devices such as gloves, screens or film holders," she added.
Prof Fritschi suggests that it is necessary for female vets to avoid exposure to occupational hazards, particularly those who were pregnant.
"Existing precautions such as properly ventilating the workplace and minimising the amount of exposure through radiation protection measures such as masks, shoes and gloves are of vital importance," she said.
"It is also essential that the vets themselves take part in the planning of preventive measures, and in training and educating the profession about how and when to use protective devices at work.
"Vets most at risk of dangerous exposures include graduates, vets under 30 years of age, those working in a mixed animal practice and vets working more than 45 hours a week," she added.
The study appears in the most recent edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.