The University of Arizona

Pregnant Laboratory Workers

Research Safety for Pregnant Workers

Congratulations on your pregnancy! RLSS and Occupational Help (OH) can help you identify your potential research-related risks and develop potential mitigation strategies. Contact Occupational Health for medical consultation; contact RLSS to learn how we can support your research safety needs.

Should I be Worried if I work in a laboratory?

A safe laboratory setting should minimize most risks; however, no workplace can eliminate all risks and your pregnancy should be factored into your new personal risk assessment. Because research is highly specialized, the most important first steps you can take, are to:

1. Assess your potential laboratory risks, with help from RLSS;

2. Consult with a medical professional.

RLSS can assist in identifying your research-related risks and instituting specific mitigation strategies, as well as gathering hazard information that can be shared with your healthcare provider. Resources provided by and discussions with RLSS do not constitute medical advice or substitute for consultations with a medical professional. Workers should discuss any potential health concerns with their healthcare provider.

Assessing Potential Laboratory Hazards

Chemical Hazards: It is important for workers to identify their specific chemical hazards, such as the identify, amount, and processes in use. Most pertinent are developmental & reproductive toxins, which can be identified via the RLSS User Dashboard. Log on to the User Dashboard and search “Developmental & Reproductive Toxin” in the Hazard Class column of the Chemical Inventory. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) can provide further details and useful indicators, such as standardized Hazard Statements, which can be found under Section 2, “Hazards Identification” of the SDS (e.g., “May Cause harm to breast-fed children”, “May damage fertility or the unborn child”, etc.). SDS are available for chemicals via the RLSS User Dashboard.

 

To better identify your specific chemical hazards, contact RLSS Chemical Safety (rlss-chem-support@arizona.edu_ to request a curated list of hazard classes for your laboratory based on your lab’s current chemical inventory. RLSS can then review relevant safety resources and further discuss any chemical or laboratory-related concerns that are specific to your research.

Biological Hazards: Some biological agents pose increased risks for a developing fetus relative to a healthy adult. Examples of fetal pathogens include L. monocytogenesToxoplasma species, Zika Virus, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Enteroviruses. Your pregnancy may also affect the choice of prophylactic strategies during exposure response. Consult with Occupational Health to identify whether alternative post-exposure plans are warranted. If you are unsure whether your biological agent(s) constitute a fetal pathogen, contact the RLSS Biosafety (rlss-bio-support@arizona.edu) to help you identify hazards related to the agents in your laboratory.

Radiation Hazards: If you are pregnant and work with or near radioactive materials, or near radiation producing machines, you may have questions about whether your radiation exposure presents a prenatal hazard.  Research Laboratory & Safety Services has established a Pregnancy Declaration Program that provides pregnancy counseling for radiation workers who are pregnant, suspect they may be pregnant, or who are planning a pregnancy.  This is a voluntary program available to all University of Arizona radiation workers.  Contact RLSS Radiation Safety (rlss-rad-support@arizona.edu) to learn more about the Pregnancy Declaration Program, discuss specific radiation risks, and to request additional resources, such as fetal dosimetry monitoring.

Occupational Health: There are a variety of adjustments that can be made to reduce risk from possible exposures during your pregnancy. However, occasionally job duties may need to be adjusted temporarily for your protection during the duration of your pregnancy. In the event such adjustments need to be made, Occupational Health can collaborate with RLSS to evaluate your exposure and complete a Work Status Form. A Work Status Form is a document that can be provided to your supervisor which outlines how your work duties must be temporarily modified without disclosing the indication to be pregnancy (for your privacy).

Pregnancy is a dynamic process that effects your metabolism, ligaments, cardiopulmonary demand, and more. These changes occur over the course of weeks to months and can vary by individual. There is also limited evidence for recommendations for maternal and fetal outcomes in some areas of specialized research. For these reasons, please seek re-evaluation for occupational exposures with any changes in your health status or work tasks. It is always best to review consultations with RLSS and OH, with your obstetrician who will be closely familiar with the condition of your pregnancy and fetal health as well.

A note on respirator use- weight fluctuations are an expected occurrence during pregnancy and post-partum. If you experience a weight gain of 20 pounds or more with your pregnancy or a weight loss of 20 pounds or more post-partum, please contact RLSS to schedule a re-fit test for your respirator to ensure that your respirator still provides an adequate seal for your protection. If you experience any new symptoms that pose significant difficulty in your ability to wear a respirator with work tasks, please contact Occupational Health for further evaluation.

Reducing Exposures While Pregnant

Elimination & Substitution: Consider whether any potentially hazardous tasks can be temporarily transferred to a fellow lab member or if an alternative and less hazardous chemical can be substituted for a more hazardous chemical to reduce your personal risk. For example, substitute ethidium bromide for SYBR safe while running gels or have a coworker perform steps in a protocol where developmental toxins are utilized.

Engineering and Administrative Controls: Engineering and administrative controls can be an effective means to reduce one’s risks; these include the use of fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, reduction in work hours, and more. RLSS is available to discuss the choice, operation, and relevant safety features of engineering controls; consult on administrative controls; and/or help plan for future modifications to any current controls.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE serves as the last line of defense against exposure and should only be used if the hazard(s) cannot be eliminated, substituted, engineered out, or administratively controlled. PPE is task and user-specific; please consult with RLSS prior to using any new PPE or to evaluate your current PPE selections for your specific laboratory hazards.
 

Helpful Contacts

RLSS: 520-626-6850, RLSS-help@arizona.edu

Chemical Safety: rlss-chem-support@arizona.edu

Biosafetyrlss-bio-support@arizona.edu

Radiation Safetyrlss-rad-support@arizona.edu

Occupational Health: 520-621-5643, occhealth-support@arizona.edu