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Why are more doctors failing to warn about environmental risks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to toxic substances such as solvents and heavy metals can be harmful to a pregnant mother and her child because they can cause birth defects, developmental complications and even miscarriages. But according to a recent survey, less than 20 percent of obstetricians said they told their pregnant patients about these environmental dangers.

But if this failure to provide resources could cause problems for pregnant women, why are doctors hesitant to speak about such dangers? According to some physicians, they feel they simply do not have enough information about the risks associated with exposure to environmental toxins to provide their clients with beneficial information.

So would more knowledge on the subject help doctors provide better services to help women reduce their risk of birth defects? As was concluded by the survey, 78 percent of obstetricians said that talking with women about environmental dangers could help them reduce their risk of serious complications. If they had the right information, says a professor at the University of California in San Francisco, doctors may feel more confident relaying that information to their patients.

Though this could theoretically cut down on instances of negligence and reduce a woman’s chances of becoming a victim of malpractice, it’s worth noting that not all obstetricians may feel comfortable warning patients about environmental hazards without reputable studies to back them up. A doctor may also chose to warn their patients about other health risks instead of environmental dangers, perhaps feeling that this would suffice when in fact it may not. And as our Arizona readers can imagine, this could create more problems than physicians realize.

Source: NPR.com, “Few Doctors Warn Expectant Mothers About Environmental Hazards,” Kara Manke, June 25, 2014

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