Medicine: The Sins of the Fathers

Both parents may be vulnerable to toxins that cause birth defects

Ever since thousands of severely deformed babies were born in the early 1960s to mothers who had taken the drug thalidomide, doctors have been alert to the risks that certain chemicals can pose to developing fetuses. Precautions, however, have been based on one central assumption: that exposure to dangerous substances is most likely to occur inside the wombs of mothers- to-be. A series of studies has raised the possibility that the fault can sometimes lie with the father. Poisons in a man's body may silently damage his sperm and thus lead to birth defects.

The new research suggests that men exposed...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!