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...

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