Genes are the blueprint for building a baby. We all have about 20,000 pairs of genes. Some are favorable genes that, alone or in combination, are responsible for traits like beautiful eyes or curly hair or athletic ability. Other genes, however, can cause problems especially when they are dominant genes that increase the risk of a specific disability in 50% of an affected parent’s children. There are also recessive genes that only cause problems when they are paired with a matching gene in the other parent. This means each of their children has a one in four chance of inheriting the disorder and a 50:50 chance of being a carrier of the gene. A growing body of research suggests, however, that many birth defects are not caused by “bad” genes, but by susceptible genes that are triggered by one or more “bad” things from the world around us. Chemicals, X-rays, smoking, poor nutrition, lead and mercury are just some of the exposures that can adversely affect genes.
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