Thalidomide, a new sedative in the early 1960's, was responsible for causing approximately 10,000 cases of phocomelia (delayed development of limb buds) in Europe. The release to the public of such a fetotoxic substance was a fluke of animal safety testing; in humans 0.5-1.0 mg/kg of thalidomide is teratogenic, while 4000 mg/kg has no teratogenic effect in rats and mice.
The pollution of the Love Canal area and the PBB/PCB's which found their way into the Michigan milk supply in the early 1970's are more recent, local examples. Some other agents or factors which are or might be hazardous to development include: anesthetic gases, cancer chemotherapeutics, paint strippers (methylene chloride), ethylene oxide, organophosphate pesticides, benzene, glycol esters, ionizing radiation, microwaves, heat stress, and very strenuous exercise.
Rubella, or German measles, which causes cataracts, patent ductus arteriosus, pulmonary valvular and/or pulmonary artery stenosis, atrial septal defect (ASD), deafness, and stillbirth, was first recognized as a teratogenic agent in 1941.
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