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Review of hazards to female reproductive health in veterinary practice

Joni M. Scheftel DVM, MPH1, Brigid L. Elchos RN, DVM2, Carol S. Rubin DVM, MPH3, and John A. Decker RPh, MS4
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  • 1 Zoonotic Diseases Unit, Minnesota Department of Health, 625 North Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55155.
  • | 2 Mississippi Board of Animal Health, 23 Indigo T1, Hattiesburg, MS 39402.
  • | 3 One Health Strategies, 330 Ponce de Leon Pl, Atlanta, GA 30030.
  • | 4 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To review publications that address female reproductive health hazards in veterinary practice, summarize best practices to mitigate reproductive risks, and identify current knowledge gaps.

DESIGN Systematized review.

SAMPLE English-language articles describing chemical, biological, and physical hazards present in the veterinary workplace and associations with adverse reproductive outcomes or recommendations for minimizing risks to female reproductive health.

PROCEDURES Searches of the CAB abstracts database were performed in July 2012 and in May 2015 with the following search terms: veterinarians AND occupational hazards and vets.id AND occupational hazards.sh. Searches of the PubMed database were conducted in November 2012 and in May 2015 with the following medical subject heading terms: occupational exposure AND veterinarians; anesthetics, inhalation/adverse effects AND veterinarians; risk factors AND pregnancy AND veterinarians; pregnancy outcome AND veterinarians; and animal technicians AND occupational exposure. Two additional PubMed searches were completed in January 2016 with the terms disinfectants/toxicity AND female AND fertility/drug effects and veterinarians/psychology AND stress, psychological. No date limits were applied to searches.

RESULTS 4 sources supporting demographic trends in veterinary medicine and 118 resources reporting potential hazards to female reproductive health were identified. Reported hazards included exposure to anesthetic gases, radiation, antineoplastic drugs, and reproductive hormones; physically demanding work; prolonged standing; and zoonoses.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Demographic information suggested that an increasing number of women of reproductive age will be exposed to chemical, biological, and physical hazards in veterinary practice. Information on reproductive health hazards and minimizing risk, with emphasis on developing a safety-focused work culture for all personnel, should be discussed starting in veterinary and veterinary technical schools and integrated into employee training.

Contributor Notes

Mr. Decker's present address is the National Center for Environmental Health-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy, NE, Atlanta, GA 30341.

Address correspondence to Dr. Scheftel (joni.scheftel@state.mn.us).