Birth defects affect more than 120,000 children in the United States or 1 in every 33 babies born every year, and are one of the leading causes of infant deaths. An infant may be born with more than one birth defect. Some birth defects, such as Down syndrome, can affect multiple organs. Some infants born with birth defects have an increased likelihood of premature birth, illness, and long-term disability.
Researchers do not know the causes of all birth defects. Many birth defects are believed to have multiple causes, including both genetic and environmental factors. More research is needed to understand the links between the environment and birth defects.
To learn about genetic (not environmentally linked) birth defects in California, see the California Department of Public Health Genetic Disease Screening Program site or the Tracking California Sickle Cell Data Collection Program web page. This section will describe those birth defects that the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) collects data on and that may be linked to environmental exposures.
To track birth defect in California we use information related to the number of babies born with birth defects from 8 counties in the Central Valley: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare. In our data query, we display the number on 12 birth defects. We receive this data from the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, of the California Department of Public Health.