Identifying Human Behavioral Teratogens

Designs and Methods
  • Ernest L. Abel


Although over 800 agents have now been found to produce some form of teratogenicity in animals, only a few (30) are considered teratogenic in humans (Shepard, 1986) and none of these has been so identified solely on the basis of behavioral anomalies. Although behavioral damage, especially mental retardation, represents a far greater and more intractable problem than structural damage, behavioral teratogens per se are not included in any list of agents causing anomalies in humans. This is because immediate identification of anomalies is still society’s primary concern and “silent teratogens” do not make their influence felt until long after birth. Nevertheless, narcotics, marihuana, PCBs, and other compounds clearly warrant more than passing attention because of their behavioral teratogenicity. In terms of cost alone, care and treatment of people with behavioral dysfunctions due to prenatal CNS damage represents a far greater economic burden to society than caring for individuals with structural defects (e.g., Abel & Sokol, 1987).


Mental Retardation Prenatal Exposure Brain Damage Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Attention Deficit Disorder 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernest L. Abel
    • 1
  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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