WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Male babies of women who use insect repellents during the first three months of pregnancy appear to be at increased risk for a birth defect called hypospadias, researchers report.
This birth defect, which affects about two of every 500 male infants, involves premature shortening of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the opening of the penis.
In the new study, a research team from Barcelona and London compared 471 babies born in England with hypospadias and 490 babies without the birth defect. The infants' mothers were asked about their lifestyles and environmental factors, including the use of insect repellents and biocides, such as pesticides or weed killers, during pregnancy.
The use of individual biocides didn't appear to be associated with an increased risk of hypospadias, but the use of several biocides was associated with a 73 percent increased risk, according to the report published online Dec. 1 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The researchers also found that the use of insect repellents during the first three months of pregnancy was associated with an 81 percent increased risk.
The study didn't examine the specific type, content and frequency of use of insect repellents, and further investigation of these factors is needed before any firm conclusions can be reached, the researchers noted.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about hypospadias.