Date: Around 1993
What is a teratogen?
A teratogen is a chemical that causes a fetus to develop
incorrectly, there are many examples of these. Perhaps one of the most common
is alcohol. When a pregnant woman drinks excessively the baby is born with
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which includes a combination of physical and mental
Teratogen means, in Greek, "monster forming". Teratogens are
chemicals that cause abnormalities in embryos. Alcohol certainly is one.
Perhaps the most famous is thalidomide, a drug originally designed to combat
morning sickness is pregnant women. It caused the long bones in the arms or
legs to be absent, resulting in babies with severely stunted arms or legs.
Rarely, a microorganism such as a bacterium can be teratogenic. One is
Toxoplasma, which causes toxoplasmosis. It is carried by rabbits and cats and
can be common in your yard, which is why doctors often advise pregnant women
to wear latex gloves when gardening.
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Update: June 2012