AT HIGHEST RISK: Environmental Hazards to Young and Unborn Children by Christopher Norwood

AT HIGHEST RISK: Environmental Hazards to Young and Unborn Children

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Unlike some of the muckrakers, Norwood generally writes a cool, well-ordered prose, setting forth the facts and conjectures about environmental hazards to reproduction and to the health of offspring. Here are clear reports of the dangers of radiation; of DES-medicated pregnancies and the sexual dysfunctions and cancers that later appeared in the children; of the birth defects and neurological damage wrought by Minamata disease, and the miscarriages associated with herbicide 2,4,5,-T. There are also less familiar accounts of how low exposures to lead may cause brain damage in schoolchildren of all social classes; of the unexplained higher incidence of dental caries in children who sit in windowless fluorescent-lit schoolrooms; of how saccharin can cross the placenta, to persist in fetal tissue for longer periods than in the mother who consumed it. Norwood is not out to excoriate the government, or even private industry and the medical and legal professions. As he points out, concerned individuals in the professions or in administrative posts have often been the first to note the correlations and sound the alarm. What he does condemn is the hypermedicalization of the birth process: the unnecessary inductions of labor, the increasing number of Caesareans, the excessive use of fetal monitoring devices and drugs during labor and delivery. All too often these have been the physician's shield against potential litigation should a malformed infant result from a more natural childbirth, yet each drug or device carries its own risk of damage to mother or child. He is cautious in interpreting findings. But the inescapable conclusion is that less exposure to hazards would be better. In the case of the pregnant woman, this would mean waiting before becoming pregnant after using the Pill, and avoiding all unnecessary medications (even aspirin), as well as cigarettes and alcohol. A sober review by an able, conscientious reporter.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: McGraw-Hill