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Any chemical or other factor such as heat stress, radiation, infectious disease or improper diet that causes harm to an adult can interfere with reproduction or a child’s development.  But some factors can cause such harm to the developing child in the womb at doses or exposures lower than those that cause any obvious harm to a potential parent.  These factors are then designated as selective reproductive and/or developmental hazards.  Reproductive hazards can affect fertility by interfering with the normal development and function of the egg and sperm cells, interfering with the combining of those cells or making it less likely that a fertilized egg will implant in the uterus and develop into a viable fetus. Developmental hazards can interfere with the formation and growth of the fetus and may cause visible birth defects or other more subtle physical or biochemical changes in the body of the child, including in the nervous system.  A classic example is the drug Thalidomide which was safe for adults but caused abnormal arm and leg development when given early in pregnancy.  Increased risk of premature births is seen in overweight mothers, and more babies with low birth weights are seen in mothers who are drug abusers. Some of the toxicology-related resources we have found to be useful for the general public are listed first.   Links to some basic reproductive physiology background are also included for a better understanding of the biological processes that can potentially be disrupted by excessive exposure to hazards that cause reproductive or developmental toxicity.


Birth defects

Introduction to Birth Defects by Netdoctor:     Good overview for a lay audience including addressing some common myths related to the subject.  For example, causes of birth defects cannot really be easily identified.  They can involve genetic predisposition, environmental exposures, involve interactions of multiple factors (multifactorial), or remain completely unknown.  (Text only)


Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS).   Current topics and fact sheets for the lay public.

National Birth Defects Prevention Network:
Access to information on Birth Defects Surveillance, Research and Prevention (Text only)


Drugs and alcohol

“… and Down Will Come Baby …”:       Department of Education video aimed at teen mothers explores the dangers of illicit drug and alcohol use during pregnancy.  Includes some good basic information on how embryo-fetal development takes place.  Very basic level.    Ignoring video production quality we found the content sufficiently valuable to recommend this resource.


Workplace exposure

Two good technical resources developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and targeted for the worker.  Text only.

The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Male Reproductive Health:

The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health:
Links to a pdf document


Additional information about chemicals and reproductive and/or developmental effects

Resources for Families and the General Public:
A listing of additional informational sites vetted by The Teratology Society.   Single page. (Text and links only.)

Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology (DART) Database:
Scholarly resource for professionals.


Reproductive physiology

The Khan Academy video series provides excellent and accessible video introductions to this subject

Egg, sperm and fertilization

Early embryogenesis


Germ layer derivatives



Related topics:   Occupational Health and Safety, Radiation

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