Birth Defect Lawyer
Every year approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects. Research has yet to uncover all the possible causes of birth defects, but some of those that are known can potentially be avoided – especially those that are attributable to environmental (non-genetic) factors.
What is a Birth Defect?
A birth defect is a structural, functional, or metabolic abnormality present at birth that can lead to serious mental or physical disabilities and sometimes death. Although many of the 4,000 known birth defects can be treated or cured, they are nevertheless the leading cause of death in children under one year of age.
Environmental Causes of Birth Defects
An estimated 60 percent of birth defects have unknown causes. Environmental and/or genetic factors bring about the rest. Environmental factors that cause birth defects are known as teratogens . A teratogen is essentially an external agent such as a drug, chemical, or virus that causes defects in the embryo or fetus.
Common teratogenic chemicals and environmental pollutants include :
- Lead (usually in the form of lead-based paint)
- Mercury (found in a variety of fish)
- Arsenic (found in some water and pressure-treated wood)
- Cadmium (contained in fungicides, certain fabric dyes, glass glazes, and fertilizer)
- Organic solvents (chemicals such as degreasers, paint thinners, varnish removers, lacquers, and silk-screening inks)
- Chlorinated drinking water
- Household cleaning products (if labeled toxic)
Common teratogenic drugs include:
- Certain antibiotics such as tetracycline, streptomycin, and sulfonamides
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Anticonvulsant/seizure drugs
- Benzodiazepines such as tranquilizers and anti-anxiety drugs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Accutane, retinoids, and other dermatology drugs
- Various anti-depressants such as Paxil and Prozac
- Live-virus vaccines
An infection contracted during pregnancy can also have a teratogenic effect, causing a variety of birth defects. Rubella, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and various sexually transmitted diseases are some common examples.
Types of Birth Defects
The most common birth defects identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include: cleft lip and/or palate, Down syndrome, spina bifida, structural defects of the heart, genitals or urinary tract, Tay-Sachs disease, and Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Birth Defect Prevention
While not all birth defects can be prevented, there are precautions a woman can take to protect herself and her baby from dangerous teratogens and reduce the risk of birth defects. Important preventative measures include avoiding the inhalation or ingestion of harmful chemicals or substances.
Pregnant women should specifically avoid medications – prescriptions, over the counter, and herbal – that are known teratogens as well as nicotine, alcohol, and street drugs. Of course, a woman should also maintain good physical health throughout her pregnancy, which means eating a well-rounded diet, exercising, and allowing herself plenty of rest.
Most birth defects occur within the first trimester of pregnancy, so pregnant women should consult with their physicians regarding an overall approach to good prenatal health as soon as possible .
If you believe you were exposed to a teratogenic substance during your pregnancy that resulted in a birth defect, you may wish to seek the counsel of a caring and competent attorney who can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights . For more information and attorneys about birth defects, please visit this contact us.
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