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14 April 2008
Fertility Risk For Veterinarians

Researchers have voiced concern over findings which reveal female veterinarians who fail to safeguard themselves from x-rays and anesthetic gases face double the risk of miscarriage. Published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the research followed 1,200 female veterinarians over a 40-year period and was carried out by scientists from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and The University of Western Australia.

"The worrying findings showed that female veterinarians exposed to an hour or more of anesthetic gases or exposed to pesticides during the course of their duties were twice as likely to miscarry during pregnancy," said researcher Lin Fritschi. "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 anesthetic gases.

The researchers also found that while 80 percent of vets used 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.

According to Fritschi, x-rays, anesthetic gases and pesticides could have a devastating effect on pregnancy and fertility. "Existing precautions such as properly ventilating the workplace and minimizing the amount of exposure through radiation protection measures such as masks, shoes and gloves are of vital importance," she said.

The study concluded that it was essential for 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," noted Fritschi.

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Source: Research Australia

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