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About Kathy McGinn

The Sokolove Law Nurses' Desk is led by Kathy McGinn, R.N., B.S.N., L.N.C.C., a 25-year nursing veteran who has worked in the field of legal nurse consulting since 1990. From early on in her career, Kathy was passionate about making patient advocacy the core of her nursing practice. She has been instrumental in cultivating a strong and knowledgeable team of nurses, each with a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

Chemicals That Cause Birth Defects

Real-life Experience:

While working at a furniture manufacturing plant, a young woman who was four months pregnant was not required to wear a respirator. In turn she inhaled paint fumes, paint thinner, glue and finishing product fumes. She later had twins, one whom died and the other was born with major defects.

Maybe you have a child who was born with a birth defect, which you suspect was caused by chemicals you came in contact with at work. Perhaps you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, and you’re afraid that some of the chemicals you work with might affect your future child’s health. Every parent worries about the risks their children are exposed to.

Teratogens are agents (such as a bacteria or viruses) or substances (such as a drugs or chemicals) that can cause harm to an unborn child developing in the mother’s womb. The following substances commonly found in industrial solvents are among the chemicals most strongly associated with birth defects.

Glycol Ethers

Glycol ethers may be used alone or in combination with other ingredients in

  • paints, varnishes, dyes, stains, and inks
  • semiconductor chip coatings
  • degreasers and dry-cleaning fluids
  • brake fluids and jet fuel de-icing additives

Glycol ethers have been linked to cleft palates, heart defects, spina bifida, missing or deformed limbs, and other birth defects.


Hydrocarbons come from the earth in the form of crude oil. As the chief component of petroleum and natural gas, hydrocarbons are commonly found in fuels, lubricants and other raw materials that are used in the production of plastics, explosives, solvents, rubbers, fibers, and industrial chemicals. Hydrocarbons are divided into two categories:

  • Aliphatic chlorinated hydrocarbons (common names: tricholoretheylene, percholethylene, dichlorethane)
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons (common names: benzene, toluene)

Exposure to hydrocarbons in the workplace can put a developing fetus at risk for restricted growth, lower IQ, heart defects, brain and spine disorders, and facial and limb abnormalities.

Ethanol (Alcohol)

Ethanol is another word for alcohol. But unlike the alcohol in adult beverages, ethanol is used in industry as a solvent in varnishes and perfumes, as a fuel and gasoline additive, and as a preservative for laboratory specimens. Ethanol is also an ingredient in many medicines and disinfectants.

Most people today understand that alcohol consumed by a pregnant mother can put the unborn child at risk for birth defects. But alcohol doesn’t have to be swallowed to endanger the fetus; exposure to ethanol and alcohol in the workplace can also lead to birth defects, including nervous system, head, and facial abnormalities as well as learning problems.

Could Your Child's Birth Defect Be Related to Chemicals in Your Workplace?

Were you exposed to toxic chemicals at work, before or during your pregnancy? Do you wonder if your child’s birth defect might be a result of your exposure to toxic chemicals? To learn more, simply call our Nurses' Desk today at 888.360.6761 – or submit the form to initiate a conversation with them.