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Environ Health Perspect. 1993 Jul;101 Suppl 2:131-6.

The epidemiology of disasters and adverse reproductive outcomes: lessons learned.

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  • 1Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333.


A disaster has been defined as a disruption of human ecology that exceeds the capacity of the community to function normally. Little is known about the adverse effects of natural disasters on reproductive outcomes. Important lessons can be derived from several disasters caused by human factors, such as the Minamata Bay disaster. Adverse reproductive outcomes include infertility, early pregnancy loss, stillbirths, congenital malformations, and serious developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Recent disasters like the Chernobyl and Bhopal explosions have provided important lessons on the need for accurate and sound information about the risk of prenatal exposures for adverse reproductive outcomes. To study questions of adverse reproductive outcomes and disasters requires a well-planned approach. It should include early development of surveillance for adverse reproductive outcomes, analytic studies on the risk of disasters from direct and indirect effects, sensitive methods to measure early pregnancy loss, and long-term follow-up programs to assess outcomes such as developmental disabilities.

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