Safety in Pregnancy

I read an article in Craft Report(?) that suggested that
pregnant women jewelers should not make jewelry at all while
pregnant. Does anyone agree with that?

We inhale gas fumes, smell pickle, and possibly touch flux and
pickle, and inhale metal particles and possibly deal with
investment. None of those are very healthy things to do…but
just how bad are they, I’m wondering?

Elaine in Chicago

Hello again - The point I was getting at in checking with the
doctor - was that in most cases the dr. knows our individual
medical history - not so much that she/he would know about the
specific jewelers’ chemicals - and their effect on the pregnancy.
There are many unknowns in life. For me, having a healthy
child was the primary focus - real life sculpture. And I agree
with Pauline that the first formative weeks are critical - and at
that time, most of us don’t know that we are pregnant. That is
why if we are planning the pregnancy - we could avoid problems -
but neither of my children were planned. Sensible workshop safety
needs to be active all the time. During the first stretch - I
felt too awful (all day morning sickness) to do much metalwork.
It is amazing how much we forget! Kids are now 17 and 8. By
month 5 - was able to do a lot more studio work. Was recently at
the UH sculpture lab - and the smells from the grinding of steel
and bronze casting were pretty strong (like second hand smoke).
Back in my sculpture days - we did a quick form of aluminum
sandcasting - pouring the aluminum directly over the carved
polyurethane foam form. When polyurethane foam burns - it gives
off cyanide gas. So, before the pour, I went and got a super
duper gas filter mask from a welding shop. Am glad I did - in
thinking back - it was a couple of years later that I had child
#1. Hope they don’t do that form of casting anymore.

       The article was not on pregnant jewelers, but on safety
for men and women in the shop.  It mentioned boric acid (or was
is borax?) was associated with female infertility. 

If infertility is the question - that is a very different
question of which I know nothing. Not an easy problem - and
hopefully there is some progress in helping to alleviate that
situation. We have so many enivronmental pollutants in our
everyday world. Speaking of pollutants -giving up coffee was
the hard one for me - after the first stretch of feeling awful -
fortunately, during the first trimester I couldn’t stand coffee!
Carol - I’ll address the ultrasonic cleaner in another reply -
thanks. Cynthia

I would like to re-empahsize how important it is to use your OWN
good common sense,and gathering. That includes
checking with your doctor, but do not rely on that totally. They
don’t know about our materials, AND they make mistakes anyways.
eg: Mine told me to go ahead and go skiing in Colorado. I wound
up in the hospital with premature labor before even getting close
to the slopes due to the altitude change (I live at sea level
outside Boston). As I lay in bed for the next 3 months, I read
this info in a basic book about pregancy… I used a different
dr. for the next kid! good luck. Cindy

Cynthia Eid

Pregnancy After a lot of thought, I think my recommendation is:
if you are pregnant, seriously consider leaving the studio for
the duration and doing a lot of designing in pencil and other
media that are not too toxic. Let’s just say that a pregnant
woman transfers chemicals easily to the fetus and that the fetus
is very susceptible to such things. Metal dusts, solvents, other
chemicals, metal salts and oxides all have potential to injure
the fetus. Solvents seem to be one of the worst hazards. Check
with your own physician for their recommendations in your
specific case if you are pregnant. The September 1997 Craft
Report magazine had a very good article by Monona Rossol
addressing this. She points out that one third of pregnant IBM
workers exposed to tiny amounts of some glycol ethers (a large
family of chemicals which are used in a number of "less toxic"
solvent replacements) had miscarriages. These same chemicals were
used in the 1980s in many water-based inks, paints, dyes,
felt-tips. Rossol uses this as a way of making the point that a
pregnant person should avoid exposure to chemicals in art
materials as a matter of prudence. She notes that physicians do
not recommend respirator use for pregnant women due to increased
breathing stress. And “Avoid lead in any form.” Watch out for
alcohol, it causes birth defects; not just drinking it, but
breathing it, for example when it has been used as a solvent or
as a boric acid and alcohol fire-scale retardant. In fact, Rossol
recommends staying away from all solvents, including "natural"
solvents like turpentine and d-limonene-similar compounds are
used in many “non-toxic” cleaning liquids that claim a "citrus"
base. Metal patinas carry similar dangers with some utilizing
metals like tellurium. In general Rossol feels there is a great
deal to be careful of in the studio when pregnant (Rossol,
“Pregnancy”). A recent study published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association found that exposure to organic
solvents in pregnant women caused miscarriage, premature births,
low birth weight children, spina bifida and other birth defects.
The risk was considered ‘far more serious than smoking or
drinking to pregnant women’. Women exposed to solvents were 4 to
13 times more likely to have birth defects in their babies than
those in a control group. The rate of serious birth defects
normally lies between 1 and 3% in Canadian women and 12% if
exposed to organic solvents. It was noted in the study that
regular exposure to household solvents does not endanger the
foetus (Arnold, pages, A1, A12).

“Karenworks” writes that, in conversation with her doctors,
their response was “you should be taking the same kind of
precautions before you get pregnant as you need to during
pregnancy” (Karenworks, Orchid list, Nov. 9, 1997, “Pregnancy
Precautions”). That is, don’t just be careful because you’re
pregnant; value yourself enough to be careful all the time.

(from ‘the Jewelry Workshop Safety Report’-still under
construction …)

Charles Lewton-Brain
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada

Hi all who have posted on this thread.

It seems to me that it’s a matter of personal comfort. I am
reading this thread with rapt attention as I intend to have
little rugrats probably in the next couple of years. I think the
comment about the first two weeks being so dangerous (thank you
Pauline) was really apt; but I also think that scrupulous shop
safety (always wearing a certified respirator/mask, gloves, maybe
not mixing investment at all) is a good idea too. What I’ll
probably do is stop doing jewellery for a couple of weeks before
I want to conceive, and not do any until I know for sure. Then
I’ll probably not do much for the first half, and gradually start
doing more (safely). The thing is, I would hate for my baby to be
born with complications that might or might not be caused by my
profession. I would rather be safe. The amount of nasty stuff
adults can shrug off it amazing; babies aren’t that tough, and
it’s almost impossible to know exactly what effects stuff in the
workshop will have, because it’s never been explored.

Thank you everyone for posting your experiences.

The only problem I had with working during my pregnancy is my
huge belly wouldn’t fit under the bench tray!! I now have a
healthy 15 year old. Wendy Newman

Elaine- I was working as a jeweler when I was pregnant. The only
thing that I stopped doing was plating. I was careful about
ventilation.I had a good pregnancy and no problems for the baby
either. Common sense and a cautious approach. Good luck and have
fun! Carol