Skip to main content


Chemical exposure topics and information links.  Updated 09/28/2011.

Preface: a million hours of learning about specific embryotoxins and fetotoxins will not guarantee you (or your pregnancy) protection from injury from chemicals, biologicals, or radioisotopes. The single most important piece of information is probably this: there are many agents whose effects on pregnancy are not known.  

How many? Well, that's not known either. Protect yourself from all of those unknown ones as well as from the known hazards. Stay out of the lab and away from chemicals, biologicals, radioisotopes...  as much as you can.  Wear all the correct PPE and know that it's working. Make your co-workers behave (or make sure the supervisor makes them behave) safely. Stay away from as many chemicals as you can stay away from in your garage and basement as well.  

Archived Inquiries and responses, begun May 2009:

Question: I am a lab technician in a molecular biology lab and recently found out I am pregnant. I am not planning on using radiation anytime soon and can robably avoid it for the next 8 months.  I am mostly wondering about other lab chemicals. Does REM have a list of chemicals that should be avoided? Thanks for your help.


There are various lists of chemicals which are known to cause birth defect or other reproductive effects, some of them long before pregnancy.  There are a few which are known to cause problems with developing human life during pregnancy but the last time I bought a copy of a book that dealt with these and lent it to a grad student, it never came back to me.  

The thing I regard as most important is that there is no list of chemicals which is regarded as safe, and therefore a list of chemicals known to be dangerous is kind of misleading because it seems to suggest that chemicals not listed are safe.  I know that's not what such a list would say, but it's what a lot of people suppose the list means, that if chemical X is not on the list of bad things, it must be an OK thing.  

Compared to the number of chemicals which exists, we know quite a bit about the health and safety effects of a TINY fraction of them, and very little about all of the rest.  You should assume that most everything is dangerous and keep it all off of you and out of your breathing zone.

The best advice I can give you is to:

  1. Read as much as you can, learn the meanings of the words teratogen, embryotoxin, fetotoxin....
  2. Change into work clothes when you get to work, including shoes that you keep at work, change back into your regular clothes before you leave.
  3. Wash your hands a lot. Keep you fingers out of your mouth and nose and eyes.