Environmental teratogens consist of agents that interfere with the normal fetal development thus leading to defects on the newborns and sometimes fetal death (Brent & Beckman, 1990). Environmental teratogens can also cause miscarriages, growth retardation, minor or serious malformations, metabolic dysfunctions and neurobehavioral dysfunctions such as lethargy and irritability. Behavior is one most important elements studied by professional psychologists. Behavior is caused by both nature and nurture (Children Specialists of Sandiego, n. d). Therefore, the study of environmental teratogens is critical to a professional psychologist since these agents can be responsible for modifying behavior.
Mineral and vitamin imbalances or deficiencies, chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, a number of therapeutic medicines, bacterial and viral infections as well as noxious plants comprise of environmental teratogens that have the potential to cause abnormal fetal development (Brent & Beckman, 1990). Maternal exposures to these agents often cross the placental barrier and affect the fetus. It has also been suggested that paternal exposures can cause sperm defects and sometimes causing gene mutations and fertility alterations. However, paternal causes of teratogenecity have not been documented (Children Specialists of Sandiego, n. d).
The information on environmental teratogens is crucial to psychologists since teratogens are responsible for psychological disorders that present later in life during child development (Brent & Beckman, 1990). Neurobehavioral conditions such as lethargy, irritability, mental retardation and attention deficit are mainly caused by environmental teratogens such as maternal exposure to alcohol and other chemical agents (Children Specialists of Sandiego, n. d). The information can also be utilized by psychologists as well as other healthcare providers to provide confidential information on pregnancy risks to pregnant mothers.
In general, environmental teratogens have a great impact to the developing fetus and the future developmental processes in born babies. Information on these teratogens can be crucial in the process of providing guidance to pregnant mothers so as to avoid potential teratogenic agents which might cause fetal development problems. Since behavior can be depended on both nature (genetic) and nurture (environment).
Brent, R.L & Beckman, D.A (1990). Environmental teratogens. Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine. 66(2): 123-163.
Children Specialists of Sandiego (n. d). Environmental/ teratogen exposures. Retrieved July 24, 2010 from http://www.cssd.us/body.cfm?id=741