Last week, research from the United Kingdom was published in the medical journal, BMJ titled, “Prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood balance ability: findings from a UK birth cohort study.” The study concludes that, “No evidence was found of an adverse effect of low-to-moderate maternal alcohol consumption on childhood balance.” The study did not find that it is safe to drink alcohol at any level during pregnancy, yet that is how the study’s conclusion is being portrayed by the media in the UK, United States and elsewhere. NOFAS is outraged at both the inaccurate coverage of the findings that misleads the public about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy and by the research article itself, which appears to be written and released to the media in a way that intentionally lends itself to this inaccurate reporting.
Forty years of research has irrefutably demonstrated that alcohol is a neurotoxin in utero. That means alcohol is a toxic substance to the developing baby, just like lead and mercury are neurotoxins. It is very well understood how alcohol can interfere with healthy human development. Among the most harmful consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure is the death of developing brain cells in the embryo or fetus. However, alcohol’s position as a socially acceptable substance and an important lifestyle choice for many leads to persistent, misguided, and at times deliberate efforts to claim a threshold below which alcohol is completely safe during pregnancy. There is no such threshold.