There are many historical examples of foreign substances or diseases producing developmental alterations (Table 4.03). Sources of such substances include food and lifestyle (ubiquitous), therapeutic or recreational drugs, and environmental and occupational pollution. Whether and to what extent development is altered depends upon a number of factors, including degree and duration of exposure.
Methyl mercury contained in fish from an industrial process was eaten by pregnant women in Minamata, Japan, producing severe birth defects.
The fetal alcohol abuse syndrome which includes physical and mental retardation, has been with humans for thousands of years. It is also connected to an increased incidence of ventricular septal defect (VSD).
Maternal cigarette smoking during gestation causes low birth weight, increased risk of miscarriage, and possibly some mental retardation in the baby. It may or may not produce congenital myocardial hypercellularity.
Lead was first noted in 1897 as being connected with an inordinately high infant mortality rate among women industrial workers in England.
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