Organic solvents are widely used in industry and at home. There have been many human studies on the reproductive and developmental effects of solvents. Although these studies are often unable to pinpoint specific solvents or specific doses of exposure, they have revealed a number of worrisome health effects.
Animal studies show variable effects on reproduction and development from one solvent to another, but many, if not most, of the solvents tested have been shown to be toxic to the fetus in animals. A few solvents cause birth defects in animals, and some have effects on male reproductive function. Unfortunately, animal studies almost always use a high dose of only one solvent, while humans are exposed to low or moderate levels of numerous solvents every day. Thus, most reports of effects in humans involve mixed solvents and may not allow us to identify one culprit, yet animal studies may not accurately reflect human risks.
In humans, there is consistent evidence that solvents may raise the risk of spontaneous abortion among exposed women by two- to fourfold. Two studies show an increased risk of spontaneous abortion among wives of men exposed to solvents. Solvents may increase the risk of certain structural birth defects in humans, particularly those of the central nervous system, urinary system, heart, lip, and palate. This area urgently needs further research. And one important study suggests that solvent exposure may predispose to preeclampsia, or toxemia of pregnancy. Finally, defects of the central nervous system and childhood cancers of the