Cosmetologists who regularly use chemicals while pregnant face up to twice the risk of miscarrying as other women, a study has found.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said their survey found associations between miscarriages and the number of hours worked per day in cosmetology, the number of chemical services performed per week, the use of formaldehyde-based disinfectants, and work in salons where nail sculpturing was performed.
"We did see an almost two-fold increase in spontaneous abortions among women who used formaldehyde to disinfect their cosmetology utensils during pregnancy," said Dr. Esther John of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif.
The study, conducted with Drs. David Savitz and Carl Shy as part of John's doctoral research at UNC-Chapel Hill, appears in the March issue of the journal Epidemiology.
Between 1983 and 1988, the researchers surveyed 8,356 licensed female cosmetologists ages 22 to 36. The scientists restricted their main analysis to 96 full-time cosmetologists who had suffered miscarriages and 547 others who had live births.
Women who attended cosmetology school during their first trimester had nearly double the risk of miscarriages compared to women in other professions, John said.
"We only see an increased risk if we look at women who work full time and who do many chemical services," she said. "We cannot say the work activities actually cause increased risk of miscarriage, but we did see statistical associations."
To reduce health risks, the scientists suggested that cosmetologists use gloves and work in properly ventilated areas, avoid eating and drinking in work areas and avoid products containing formaldehyde.