NOFAS: NIH Study Finds as Many as 1 in 20 First-Graders Are Affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2018 – Today, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study that measured the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) among first-grade students in four US communities.  Over 6,500 children were evaluated and the most conservative estimate for FASD ranged from 1 to 5 percent, or 1 in 20 students.  When scientists applied this rate to the remaining first-graders in each community who were not evaluated, the overall estimate for FASD was even higher ranging from 3 to 9.8 percent among the study sites.  In contrast to this new FASD data, the most recent estimates for autism spectrum disorders are 1.5 percent of US children.

“These shocking findings prove that practitioners, public health professionals, policymakers, and the public need to wake up to this crisis,” said National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) President, Tom Donaldson, “more education, more services, and more addiction treatment resources for women unable to stop drinking are urgently needed.”

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are known as hidden disabilities because the vast majority of children and adults living with the impairments are not diagnosed. Only 2 of 222 children identified by the study's researchers with an FASD had already been diagnosed. The study states that, “missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses of children are common.” Stigma is a major factor in the systemic lack of recognition of FASD. 

Physical symptoms are rarely present and the characteristics of FASD can be subtle. The effects can include impaired memory, learning and behavioral problems, and deficits in executive functioning, the neurologically-based skills involving control and self-regulation, and adaptive behavior, the ability to manage and control personal actions.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) is a public health advocacy organization that works to prevent prenatal exposure to alcohol, drugs, and other substances known to harm fetal development by raising awareness and supporting women before and during their pregnancy, and supports individuals, families, and communities living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) and other preventable intellectual/developmental disabilities. For more information, visit

Reference: May, P.A., et al. Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities. JAMA. Online February 6, 2018.

Contact: Tom Donaldson, (202) 785-4585, [email protected]
Kathy Mitchell, (202) 785-4585, [email protected]

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SOURCE National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Jasmine Petters

Jasmine Petters

Jasmine hails from the city of Nizams, Hyderabad, and is currently pursuing her M.D. from there only. She is an internet wizard and has keen passion in All Things tech. She is a regular Comment contributor for The Daily Telescope and writes a Web column, in which she covers war, sports, and everything in between.
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