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Foetal alcohol syndrome: international campaign to raise awareness kicks off

The long-term damage caused by drinking alcohol while pregnant is marked today by an international awareness campaign.

Research into foetal alcohol syndrome is sketchy but the Scottish Government estimates that 10,000 people aged under 18 are affected in this country alone.

Researchers and practitioners agree that the syndrome - also known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder - is the "tip of the iceberg" of foetal alcohol harm, according to a briefing by Children in Scotland.

Affected children often display a variety of learning disabilities and behavioural problems; children commonly regarded as wilful or undisciplined may have little control over their behaviour.

The lack of research - it is almost non-existent in the UK, Children in Scotland says - means the costly consequences are "rarely traced back to the underlying problem of foetal alcohol harm".

Scotland's chief medical officer Harry Burns, and his UK equivalents, have issued clear advice that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol.

Maggie Watts, the Scottish Government's foetal alcohol spectrum disorder co-ordinator, has a pithy message: this disorder is "common, expensive and preventable".

www.fasday.com

Henry Hepburn, henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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