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Study Finds Link Between Fathers' Career Choice and Birth Defects

Men, listen up: Your career may influence whether your future children enter this world with birth defects. A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the work environment fathers were in during the three months before conception may raise their risk of having a child with a birth defect. What professions are most susceptible, and why?

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers examined the job histories of 1,000 fathers whose children were born between 1997 and 2004 with a birth defect and 4,000 fathers whose children were born in the same period but didn't have a birth defect. From the study's release, the job types most likely to raise fathers' risks of having a child with a birth defect are as follows:

[M]athematicians, physicists, computer scientists; artists; photographers and photo processors; food service workers; landscapers and groundsmen; hairdressers and make-up artists; office and admin support workers; office and admin support workers; sawmill operatives; those working with petrol and gas; those working in chemical industries; printers; those operating cranes and diggers; and drivers.

The correlation was so strong in some job types that researchers were able to pinpoint the type of birth defect:

Jobs associated with specific types of defect included artists (mouth, eyes and ears, gut, limbs, and heart); photographer and photo processors (cataracts, glaucoma, absence of or insufficient eye tissue); drivers (absence of or insufficient eye tissue, glaucoma); landscapers and groundsmen (gut abnormalities).

Thankfully, not every type of job raises the risk of fathering a child with a birth defect. One-third of the types studied didn't have any associated birth defects whatsoever:

Those jobs include architects and designers; healthcare professionals; dentists; firefighters; fishermen; car assembly workers; entertainers; smelters and foundry workers; stonemasons and glass blowers/cutters; painters; train drivers/maintenance engineers; soldiers; commercial divers.

The study researchers believe the correlation between career and health issues in fathers' offspring is largely due to the potential hazards and chemicals they're exposed to at work -- and, more specifically, how these environmental factors may damage sperm.

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(Photo credit: Pascal/Flickr)

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