Toxic abortion

Toxic abortion is a medical phenomenon of spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth caused by toxins in the environment of the mother during pregnancy, especially as caused by toxic environmental pollutants, though sometimes reported as caused by naturally occurring plant toxins[1][2]

In humansEdit

The term "toxic abortion" was first used to identify this phenomenon in humans in the earliest studies of the effects of pollutants on pregnancy in 1928, An Experimental Investigation Concerning Toxic Abortion Produced by Chemical Agents by Morris M. Datnow M.D.[3]

Toxic abortion chemicals studied at that time were: Petrochemicals, Heavy metals, Organic solvents, Tetrachloroethylene, Glycol ethers, 2-Bromopropane, Ethylene oxide, Anesthetic gases, and Antineoplastic drugs.

In 1932, the Journal of State Medicine reported on a natural variation, with the occurrence of "a considerable number of cases of toxic abortion" being caused by untreated dental caries.[4]

Study of pollution-caused abortion in humans ceased for a considerable time, interest renewing in the 2000s. A 2009 study found that fossil fuels play a role, as "pregnant African-American women who live within a half mile of freeways and busy roads were three times more likely to have miscarriages than women who don't regularly breathe exhaust fumes."[5] A 2011 study found a correlation between exposure to workplace toxins and spontaneous abortion, and called for further study.[6] Newsweek magazine reported in May 2014 that a spike in stillborn babies in the town of Vernal, in Utah, had correlated with an increase in pollution from new gas and oil drilling. Newsweek reported that "Vernal’s rate of neonatal mortality appears to have climbed from about average in 2010 (relative to national figures) to six times the normal rate three years later."[7] Newsweek quoted one expert's observation that "We know that pregnant women who breathe more air pollution have much higher rates of virtually every adverse pregnancy outcome that exists."[7] A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health in October 2014 found tetrachloroethylene or PCE, to be "linked to increased risk for stillbirths and other pregnancy complications."[8]

The PCE study found that "pregnancies with high exposure to PCE were 2.4 times more likely to end with stillborn babies and 1.4 times more likely to experience placental abruption — when the placenta peels away from uterine wall before delivery, causing the mother to bleed and the baby to lose oxygen — compared with pregnancies never exposed to PCE." Higher exposure lead to a 35 percent higher risk of abruption.[8] PCE has also been tied to an increased risk for cancer. Children exposed to PCE as fetuses and toddlers are more likely to use drugs later in life. The toxin has been linked to mental illness, an increased risk of breast cancer and some birth defects. It has been tied to anxiety, depression, and impairments in cognition, memory and attention.[8] PCE contamination has been found in the Massachusetts water supply and "on military bases across the country," and "water systems in California and Pennsylvania and have also been found to be contaminated with PCE."[8]

In 2015, Newsweek reported that chemicals found in fast food wrappers multiply miscarriage risk by sixteen times.[9][dubious ][medical citation needed]

Some instances have been reported of women intentionally seeking to induce toxic abortion, where circumstances make medical abortion difficult to obtain, by exposing themselves to environmental toxins.[10]

In animalsEdit

Toxic abortion is observed in both humans and in animals such as cows,[11][12][13] hares,[14] and horses.[15] The source notes that animal ingestion of "low quality forage having some toxicity" harms livestock health, especially with cattle and horses, leading to numerous cases of "toxic abortion, gastro-enteritis and abortion with dystrophic and haemorrhagic lesions of the foetus." Cadmium has been identified as a chemical pollutant identified with toxic abortion in animals.[16]


  1. ^ Datnow, Morris M. (1928-12-01). "An Experimental Investigation Concerning Toxic Abortion Produced by Chemical Agents.*†". BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 35 (4): 693–724. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.1928.tb12372.x. ISSN 1471-0528. S2CID 72567400.
  2. ^ Moridi, M; Ziaei, S; Kazemnejad, A (March 2014). "Exposure to ambient air pollutants and spontaneous abortion". The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 40 (3): 743–8. doi:10.1111/jog.12231. PMID 24738119. S2CID 25645501.
  3. ^ An Experimental Investigation Concerning Toxic Abortion Produced by Chemical Agents by Morris M. Datnow M.D., BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Volume 35, Issue 4, pages 693–724, December 1928, DOI: 10.1111/j., published online: 25 AUG 2005.
  4. ^ Dame Louise McIlroy, Journal of State Medicine, Volume 40, page 5, 1932.
  5. ^ "Research Suggests Living Near Highways Can Cause Miscarriages" by Zoë Mueller, July 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Kumar, S. (2011). "Occupational, Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Associated With Spontaneous Abortion". Reproductive Sciences. 18 (10): 915–930. doi:10.1177/1933719111413298. ISSN 1933-7191. PMID 21960507. S2CID 13593090.
  7. ^ a b "In Utah Boom Town, a Spike in Infant Deaths Raises Questions", by Zoë Schlanger, in Newsweek, May 21, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d "[ In Massachusetts, contaminated drinking water linked to stillbirths, by Gail Sullivan, in The Washington Post, October 6, 2014.
  9. ^ "Fast-Food Wrappers Could Increase Miscarriage Risk by 16 Times BY CONOR GAFFEY 4/28/15 AT 11:36 AM, Newsweek.
  10. ^ The Lost World of Communism, Peter Molloy, BBC Books, 2009.
  11. ^ Medrea, N.; Dumitrescu, I.; Toader, 0.; Tachescu, A. (1984): Toxic abortion in cows due to nitrate-nitrite poisoning.
  12. ^ Correlations between the Degree of Heavy Metal Contamination of Fodder and their Accumulation in Organs and Tissues, Adriana Amfim, Violeta Elena Simion, Monica Pârvu, Spiru Haret University, Bucharest, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 032091-Bucharest Energeticienilor Blvd, 3, 9-11 Romania, page 3, "The main diseases recorded were: gastroenteritis, maternal toxicosis, lung and liver diseases, toxic abortion, marasmatic syndrome, nephropathy."
  13. ^ Tibary, Ahmed. "Abortion in Cattle". Merck Veterinary Manual. A number of toxins can cause abortion in cows.
  14. ^ Raising Healthy Rabbits, Dr. W. Sheldon Bivin, Dr. William W. King, page 48, 1994.
  15. ^ Equine Stud Farm Medicine & Surgery, Derek C. Knottenbelt, Reg R. Pascoe, Michelle LeBlanc, page 262, 2013.
  16. ^ Cadmium Flow in Soil-Plant-Animal System within a Polluted Area
    LACATUSU Radu (1), RAUTA Corneliu (1), AVRAM Nicolae (2), CARSTEA Stelian (1), LUNGU Mihaela (1), KOVACSOVICS Beatrice (1)
    (1) Research Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry, Bd. Marasti 61, 71331 Bucharest 32, Romania
    (2) National Institute of Veterinary Medicine Pasteur, Calea Giulesti 333, Bucharest, Romania.

Further readingEdit

Some additional articles are: