More women in reproductive ages are entering occupations where exposure to whole body vibrations (WBV) is common (e.g. in transportation and construction). Previous studies based on self-assessed exposure suggest increased risks of adverse birth outcomes, but it is unclear at what exposure levels and if the current exposure guidelines are appropriate during pregnancy.
To investigate whether occupational WBV-exposure increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and/or small-for-gestational age, in a large, nationwide, prospective, cohort study.
The Fetal Air Pollution Exposure cohort (FAIR) was formed by merging data from multiple, national registers, and the present study includes singletons born 1994-2014 to working women in Sweden (n?=?1,091,080 births). WBV-exposure was assessed quantitatively using a job-exposure matrix based on measurements, and calculated odds ratios were adjusted for potential confounders such as smoking and BMI, and other occupational exposures like noise, combustion particles, and physically and psychologically strenuous work. Data on absence from work (full-/part time, sick leave, parental leave, etc.) was also used.
Exposure to WBV during pregnancy, among women with low absence from work (n?=?476,419), was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, below the occupational exposure limit (1.15?m/s2). Compared to unexposed mothers, the OR was 1.38 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.83) for exposure =0.5?m/s2, corresponding to an increase from 47/1000 cases to 65/1000 cases. No increased risk was found for small-for-gestational age.
Exposure to WBV was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. The results suggest that the current permissible exposure and action levels for WBV-exposure do not adequately protect pregnant women with continuous exposure.