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Monday, July 18, 2011

Fact Sheet - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


  • Alcohol’s ability to cause birth defects was recognized more than three decades ago by U.S. researchers, and it is now the leading known environmental teratogen (an agent capable of causing physical birth defects). In a 1981 advisory, the U.S. Surgeon General suggested that pregnant women should limit their alcohol intake – although no recommended level of intake was specified.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the most serious consequences of heavy drinking during pregnancy. FAS is a devastating constellation of birth defects characterized by craniofacial malformations, neurological and motor deficits, intrauterine growth retardation, learning disabilities, and behavioral and social deficits.
  • While the prevalence of FAS in the U.S. is between 0.5-2.0 cases per 1000 births, it is more common in other parts of the world. For example, in parts of South Africa where heavy drinking prevails, the incidence of FAS exceeds 60 cases per 1000 individuals.
  • It is estimated that for every child born with FAS, three additional children are born who may not have the physical characteristics of FAS but who, as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure, still experience neurobehavioral deficits that affect learning and behavior.

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