Source: The Mercury, 30 October, 1998, p.13


Report links smoking to birth defects

By EVE LAMB 
 
A NEW report shows 
smoking can double 
the rate of sperm 
chromosome abnor- 
malities, potentially 
causing birth de- 
fects. 
 
In Hobart for the Fer- 
tility Society of Aust- 
ralia's annual confer- 
ence, US biochemist 
Donald Evenson said the 
report suggests heavy 
smoking could cause 
serious sperm abnor- 
malities. 
 
The report, to be re- 
leased this month, de- 
tails European findings 
that show heavy smok- 
ers have twice the inci- 
dence of a sperm chromo- 
somal abnormality, 
which could lead to infer- 
tility and birth defects, 
Professor Evenson said. 
 
"There are something 
like 24 identified muta- 
gens in tobacco smoke, so 
by definition there is no 
doubt that cigarette 
smoking is very harmful 
for you," he said. 
 
"The report shows 
there is a doubling of the 
incidence of the Y chro- 
mosome in sperm. 
 
"There is another 
study done by the Uni- 
versity of California that 
showed the make-up of 
sperm was altered in 
those who smoked more 
than two packets a day. 
 
"But in the future 
when we have much 
more sensitive instru- 
mentation we may find 
alterations [to sperm 
chromosomes] with a 
pack a day." 
 
Professor Evenson, of 
the South Dakota State 
University, said Danish 
studies suggested the 
average sperm count had 
been declining over the 
past 50 years. 
 
He said this decline 
was believed to be linked 
to exposure to environ- 
mental toxins, including 
tobacco smoke. 
 
"We know from stud- 
ies done a number of 
years ago that environ- 
mental and workplace 
exposure to toxicants 
have caused some seri- 
ous problems in sperm 
production and quality 
of sperm," Professor 
Evenson said. 
 
"And, more seriously, 
exposure to some sorts of 
compounds may result in 
spontaneous abortions 
and birth defects. 
 
"Petroleum solvents, 
like degreasers, are 
among the worse. 
 
"Mechanics, for exam- 
ple, will use these sol- 
vents to remove grease 
from their hands and 
these types of solvents 
are known to be poten- 
tially hazardous for 
dividing cells." 
 
Professor Evenson is 
one of the keynote speak- 
ers at the conference, 
where his talk today will 
centre on environmental 
toxins. 
 
More than 350 del- 
egates from around Aust- 
ralia and overseas are 
attending the conference, 
which continues at Wrest 
Point until tomorrow. 

Call to reduce nicotine

THE Federal Govern- 
ment should force to- 
bacco companies to 
cut nicotine in ciga- 
rettes to non-addictive 
levels, anti-smoking 
groups said yesterday. 
 
NSW Cancer Coun- 
cil chief executive An- 
drew Penman said 
falling smoker num- 
bers in Australia had 
stalled as mid-teen 
smokers increased. 
 
"We need to move 
forward with a new 
commitment and a 
new approach to 
achieving smoking 
control," he said. 
 
The call came after 
the launch of a report 
by the US and British 
medical associations 
calling on govern- 
ments to regulate nic- 
otine and related sub- 
stances in cigarettes. 


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