Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders May be Higher than Previously Thought, Study Finds


A new study of more than 6,000 first graders across the U.S. has found that the number of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is larger than previously thought. 

Over a six-year period, researchers collected data from more than 6,000 children in four communities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast and Pacific Southwest that were thought to represent an accurate sampling of the United States. There is no state-by-state specific data available.

The researchers found that the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from a conservative 1.1 to 5 percent of the studied population but estimate the real numbers are likely 3 to almost 10 percent of the total population. Previous estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had the percentage closer to or under 1 percent of the population.

Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause a range of deficits that contribute to physical challenges, learning disabilities behavioral, and social challenges throughout life. Recent studies have found that for pregnant women, there is no safe amount of alcohol use at any point during pregnancy.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Science and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

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Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.