The development of the fetus, from a single cell to the millions of cells that make up the newborn, is a carefully orchestrated process with many chances for environmental exposures to create mischief with the developmental process.
As part of our E-Textbook, Jeanne Leffers has written a piece on the special vulnerabilities to environmental exposures seen across the lifespan. This is essential reading for all nurses becoming interested in environmental health.
This article in Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental Factors in Birth Defects, is an excellent introduction into the role environmental exposures may play in the 70% of birth defects for which no cause is known.
The Centers for Disease Control have also included environmental exposures as part of their birth defect tracking system.