A Small Dose of Pregnancy and Developmental Toxicology

  • An Introduction to the Effects of Chemicals on Pregnancy and Development

"Nature creates monsters for the purpose of astonishing us and amusing herself." - Pliny (61–105 A.D.)

Pregnancy and Developmental Chapter

PowerPoint Presentation

Examples of Chemicals that Affect Reproduction

Class of chemical


Endocrine disruptors

DDT, dioxin, phthalates

Heavy metals

Lead (decreased or abnormal sperm)

Organic Solvents

Toluene, benzene, n-hexane


Alcohol, narcotics, hypotensive drugs, chemotherapeutic agents, steroids, diethylstibestrol


Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), methoxychlor, linuron (herbicide)



Agents and Chemicals that Affect the Developing Infant


Lead, methylmercury, arsenic (in animals)


Chlorobiphenyls, solvents (toluene), endocrine disruptors (DDT, TCDD)


X-rays (therapeutic), atomic fallout


Rubella virus, Herpes simplex virus, toxoplasmosis, syphilis

Medical Drugs

Antibiotics (tetracylines), anticancer drugs, anticonvulsants (valproic acid), lithium, retinoids (vitamin A), thalidomide, diethylstilbestrol (DES), Anticoagulants (Warfarin

Recreational Drugs

Alcohol (ethanol), tobacco, cocaine, solvent abuse


Many herbs, skunk cabbage (Veratrum californicum) for sheep and cattle, parasites (frogs)

More Information and References

European, Asian, and International Agencies

  • World Health Organization (WHO). Pregnancy. Information from World Health Organization on efforts to improve pregnancy outcome.

North American Agencies

  • US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Education Campaigns for Pregnant Women. This FDA website offers information on food safety for pregnant women.
  • US Department of Health and Human Services. Information for Pregnant Women. Site contains general information and links on pregnancy and fetal development for men and women.
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pregnancy Homepage. Site contains information and links on pregnancy and fetal development.
  • US National Children's Study. "The National Children's Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children."
  • California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Proposition 65. Passed in 1986 by the voters of California, Proposition 65 "requires the Governor to publish, at least annually, a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity".

Non-Government Organizations

  • Teratology Society. "The Teratology Society is a multidisciplinary scientific society founded in 1960, the members of which study the causes and biological processes leading to abnormal development and birth defects at the fundamental and clinical level, and appropriate measures for prevention."
  • March of Dimes. March of Dimes works to "give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birth weight."


  • Riddle, John M. Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  • Hood, R.D. Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology: A Practical Approach, 2nd edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2005.


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