Each year in the United States, about 150,000 children are born with some type of birth defect, which means that one in every 33 babies born in this country is born with a birth defect that affects appearance, physiology, organ function or physical and mental development. A majority of birth defects are detected within the first three months of pregnancy when the organs are still in formation. Severe birth defects leave individuals with lifelong disabilities, requiring long-term treatment and therapy. The most severe types of birth defects result in fatalities. In the United States, 20 percent of newborns die because of birth defects.
While some types of birth defects may occur as a result of genetic factors, some others are caused by environmental hazards, chemicals, and drugs that the mother is exposed to during pregnancy. If a woman is exposed to toxic chemicals due to someone else's negligence or wrongdoing during pregnancy and delivers a child that has suffered birth defects as a result of such negligence, the at-fault party can be held financially responsible for the harm and losses causes.
Environmental Hazards and Birth Defects
In addition to genetic issues and prescription drugs, toxins that are present in the environment can also lead to birth defects. These toxins may be absorbed by ingesting, inhaling or absorbing through the skin. Some of the toxins and chemicals that are known to cause birth defects include lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, carbon monoxide, certain pesticides, xylene, and benzene.
Employers have a responsibility to safeguard their pregnant employees from toxic substances that could cause birth defects. In addition to employers, any third parties that fail to prevent such toxic exposure resulting in birth defects can also be held accountable.
How Can You Prevent Birth Defects?
There are certain steps employers can take to prevent birth defects resulting from toxic exposure, and it all begins with education and awareness. Here are a few tips for employers to help develop a birth defect prevention plan:
- Make wellness education accessible to workers that include tips to prevent, among other health conditions, birth defects.
- Create a health and wellness display in a prominent place such as the break room or give employees pamphlets and brochures that address important issues such as birth defect prevention.
- Take opportunities such as observing January as Birth Defects Prevention Month. Use this time circulate educational literature on the issue and provide people with online resources such as websites of the American Pregnancy Association and March of Dimes.
- Review your workplace for the presence of any harmful toxins or chemicals. If such substances are present, be sure to warn employees by posting signs and notices in prominent locations.
If You Have Been Affected
If you have given birth to a child with birth defects as a result of being exposed to harmful toxins or chemicals at work, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, hospitalization, cost of surgeries, ongoing treatment, therapy and past and future pain and suffering. Contact an experienced Orange County birth defect lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.