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Causes of Birth Defects

Birth defects have a variety of causes. What causes birth defects and how to prevent them has been researched for years by the world’s top scientists, particularly those involved in genetic testing and engineering. Birth defects, however, and their origins and cures, still seem to elude us.

According to the March of Dimes, more than half of all birth defects have unknown causes, while about 40% of all birth defects are the result of genetic or environmental factors, or a combination of both. Many defects caused by environmental factors have resulted in numerous birth defect lawsuits against the responsible parties, usually brought with the help of an experienced birth defect attorney.

Genetics play a role in some birth defects that result when one or both of the parents passes a faulty gene to the child. Babies can inherit faulty or missing genes from parents, even if the parents are healthy. Although we know what causes birth defects from a genetic standpoint – faulty genes, for example – we still do not know exactly why it occurs or how to prevent it. And though many of these defects are incurable, science has made great leaps in starting to understand possible causes through the use of genetic testing. Birth defects that are inherited include Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and Fragile X syndrome.

Chromosomes also play a role when determining what causes birth defects when a faulty gene is not found in the parents. That is, the number or structure of chromosomes can result in a birth defect. This type of birth defects can result from an error that occurs during the formation of the egg or the sperm leading to the birth of a child having damaged chromosomes, or either too many or too few chromosomes. Again, with genetic testing, birth defects such as these are starting to make more sense to researchers. An example of a birth defect caused by chromosomal damage is Down syndrome.

When determining what causes birth defects, scientists now look to the environment. Scientists have argued for decades that birth defects from environmental causes can occur when the mother is exposed to toxic substances, chemicals, or disease. For example, if a mother has certain infections during pregnancy, like rubella for example, they can result in birth defects. A mother’s exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes severe neurological problems, such as slowed growth and mental retardation.

Birth defect attorneys have cited studies in lawsuits showing that exposure to pesticides, fungicides, chemicals, lead, heavy metals, paints and other toxic substances can increase the likelihood of having a baby with birth defects. The following is a list of items that have been known to cause birth defects:

  • Insecticides;
  • Radiation and x-rays;
  • Petroleum products and distillates;
  • Heavy metals (gold, lead, mercury);
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s);
  • Over-the-counter medications;
  • Alcohol;
  • Paint;
  • Cleaning solutions;
  • Insecticides;
  • Prescription drugs;
  • Tobacco.

Working in beauty and nail salons, paint factories, metal cleaning operations, and in the agricultural industry can also increase the chance of having a child born with birth defects. Other studies investigating what causes birth defects and why have shown that some chemicals contained in medications negligently prescribed by doctors can cause defects, as well as other chemicals that have contaminated the air or groundwater in a community. Some occupations are associated with exposures to hazardous chemicals, such as teratogens. The following is a list of occupational areas that have been linked to an increased risk of birth defects in workers’ children:

  • Automotive repair facilities;
  • Electronic chip manufacturing plants;
  • Print shops;
  • Dry-cleaners;
  • Beauty salons.

Many birth defects are caused by toxic environmental exposures. It is important to consider contacting an experienced birth defect lawyer, if your child has been born with a serious birth defect as a result of a third party’s negligence, environmental exposure or both. The birth defect attorneys at LK have represented birth defect victims for more than 25 years. LK’s birth defect attorneys have spent substantial amount of time and taken unique measures to find out exactly what causes the birth defects for many of their clients and are committed to finding answers and seeking justice for families with birth defects that could have been prevented.

LK’s birth defect lawyers will investigate your case at no charge and will consult as necessary with experts in medicine and science.

ATTENTION: If you believe that your child’s birth defect was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or hazardous conditions in your workplace, you and your child may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation, please call our experienced birth defect lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline at (800) 315-3806 or by submitting a confidential email inquiry.


Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

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