The Solution is Research: Environmental Exposures and Risk Factors

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WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENT?

For many people, “the environment” conjures
up images of polluted air and water, hazardous waste sites and toxic spills.

From the perspective of the developing fetus, however, the environment includes everything the mother may come into contact with during pregnancy. For this reason, our studies look at a wide range of risk factors and exposures in

both the mother and father.

Among the areas studied by the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program are:

TIMING AND PATHWAY

Because most structural development of the fetus occurs during early pregnancy, our studies usually focus on the “periconceptional” period—the month before and first 3 months

after conception.

Studies must validate biologically plausible pathways of exposure—in other words, ways the mother could have been exposed. Proximity is not enough. If a pregnant woman lives near a source of environmental concern, for example,

we also consider whether she could have inhaled, ingested or otherwise been exposed to harmful conditions.

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