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America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (ACE3)

Birth Defects

Indicator S1 graph

Download high-resolution JPEG file of this graph | Data Tables for this Topic (PDF) (1p, 135K, About PDF)

Data characterization

  • Data for this measure are obtained from the Texas Birth Defects Registry.
  • The Registry employs robust surveillance methods to monitor all births in Texas and identify cases of birth defects.
  • The Registry represents almost 10% of all births in the United States, but the rates and types of birth defects in Texas are not necessarily representative of those in other states.
  • Musculoskeletal defects are the most common type of birth defect in Texas, with 165 cases per 10,000 live births for the years 2005-2007. The second most common type of birth defect in Texas is cardiac and circulatory, with 158 cases per 10,000 live births for the years 2005-2007.
  • The rates for all categories of birth defects in Texas have increased or remained stable for the period of 1999-2007. Some of the biggest increases were seen for musculoskeletal defects, cardiac and circulatory defects, genitourinary defects, eye and ear defects, and central nervous system defects.
    • The increases were statistically significant for musculoskeletal defects, cardiac and circulatory defects, genitourinary defects, eye and ear defects, gastrointestinal defects, and central nervous system defects.
  • The prevalence of birth defects varies by race/ethnicity for most of the anatomical categories examined. Compared with White non-Hispanics, Black non-Hispanics had lower rates of musculoskeletal, genitourinary, eye and ear, gastrointestinal, chromosomal, and oral cleft birth defects, and these differences were statistically significant. There were no statistically significant differences between Black non-Hispanics and White non-Hispanics in rates of cardiac and circulatory, central nervous system, and respiratory birth defects. (See Table S1a (PDF). (1p, 135K, About PDF))

  • Compared with White non-Hispanics, Hispanics had higher rates of cardiac and circulatory, eye and ear, and respiratory defects, whereas rates of musculoskeletal and genitourinary birth defects were lower. These differences were statistically significant. There were no statistically significant differences between Hispanics and White non-Hispanics in rates of gastrointestinal, central nervous system, chromosomal, and oral cleft defects. (See Table S1a (PDF). (1p, 135K, About PDF))

About the Birth Defects Measure

Measure S1 presents information about infants born with birth defects in Texas. The data are from a registry of birth defects for the state of Texas, which compiles data on any birth defects identified in the first year after each child is born.

  • Measure S1 presents the number of birth defects per 10,000 live births for the state of Texas, by structural categories, from 1999-2007.

The term “birth defects” covers a range of structural and chromosomal abnormalities that occur while the baby is developing in the mother’s body. A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works, or both. Some birth defects can be detected before birth, others can be detected when the baby is born, and others may not be detected until some time has passed after birth. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant death in the first year of life. Infants who do survive with a birth defect often have lifelong disabilities, such as intellectual disability or difficulty in performing everyday activities such as walking.

Some birth defects are inherited. Others have known risk factors that can be avoided such as prenatal exposure of the fetus to certain pharmaceuticals (such as Accutane® or Thalidomide), exposure to alcohol, maternal smoking, and insufficient folate in a woman’s diet. However, most have unknown causes; research suggests that some defects could be caused by environmental factors, possibly in conjunction with genetic factors.

Measure S1 presents data on infants born with birth defects in Texas from the Texas Birth Defects Registry.

More information about birth defects and Measure S1 is provided in the Birth Defects section of America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (PDF) (14 pp, 1.5MB, About PDF).

Related Links

California Department of Public Health: California Birth Defects Monitoring Program

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Birth Defects

National Birth Defects Prevention NetworkExit EPA Disclaimer

National Institutes of Health (NIH): Birth Defects

Texas Department of State Health Services: Texas Birth Defects Epidemiology & SurveillanceExit EPA Disclaimer

Trust for America's Health: Birth Defects Tracking and Prevention: Too Many States are Not Making the GradeExit EPA Disclaimer


Summary of Methods - Birth Defects

There is currently no unified national monitoring system for birth defects. Although most states have a birth defects monitoring program in place, the comprehensiveness of these programs varies. The Texas Birth Defects Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of the Texas Department of State Health Services maintains the Texas Birth Defects Registry, which is one of the most complete birth defects registries in the nation. The staff uses high-quality active surveillance methods to examine a wide range of birth defects throughout a child's first year of life. The Texas program has expanded so that it now monitors the entire state, covering approximately 380,000 births each year (almost 10% of all births in the United States). The Texas monitoring program reports a wide array of birth defects.

Measure S1 uses the Texas Birth Defects Registry data to present the number of birth defects identified in the first year after each child is born per 10,000 live births for the state of Texas, stratified by structural categories.

Detailed Methods for Measure S1 (PDF) (4 pp, 356K, About PDF)

Metadata for the Texas Birth Defects Registry (PDF) (2 pp, 111K, About PDF)

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