Occupational chemical exposures in pregnancy and fetal growth: evidence from the Born in Bradford Study

Publication authors

Adeleh Shirangi, John Wright, Eve M Blair, Rosemary RC McEachan, Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen



Understanding the effect of occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) during pregnancy on inadequate fetal growth as measured by small-for-gestational age (SGA) and as measured by percentage of optimal birth weight (POBW) is not well understood.


We studied 4142 pregnant women who were in paid employment during pregnancy and participated in a population-based, prospective 2007–2011 birth cohort study, the Born in Bradford Study, with an estimated participation of 80%. Job titles were coded at 26–28 weeks’ gestation at a 4-digit level according to 353 unit groups in the 2000 UK Standard Occupational Classification. They were then linked to expert judgment on exposure to each of ten EDC groups as assessed through a job exposure matrix. A modified Poisson regression was used to assess the risk of POBW and SGA associated with an increased risk of chemical exposures.


The frequency of POBW<85 significantly increased for mothers exposed to pesticides [adjusted risk ratio (RRadj) 3.72, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.40–9.91] and phthalates (RRadj 3.71, 95% CI 1.62–8.51). There was a 5-fold increase risk of SGA for mothers exposed to pesticides (RRadj 5.45, 95% CI 1.59–18.62). Veterinary nurses and horticultural trades were most frequently associated with exposure to pesticides while hairdressers, beauticians, and printing machine minders were associated with phthalates.


Maternal occupational exposure to estimated concentrations of pesticides and phthalates is associated with impaired fetal growth.

Key messages

The POBW is useful in measuring inadequate fetal growth in study of occupational chemical exposures.