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Murkowski Raises Awareness of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to Senate Colleagues

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Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced and passed a resolution commemorating September 9 as International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders encompass a range of physical and mental birth defects that occur in a fetus when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, and are 100 percent preventable. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fetal-alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, “describes a wide range of birth defects that can occur in any baby whose birth mother drank alcohol anytime during pregnancy. FASD is not a diagnosis but refers to a group of conditions. Even though each condition—or disorder—has unique features, all FASDs can result in physical, mental and behavior problems, as well as learning disabilities. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most-common and most-serious disorder. Others are alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) and partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS). Other terms used less often include alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE).”

“During my time in the Senate, I have given many speeches recognizing FASD day. In each of these speeches, I stated that in Alaska we have the highest rate of FASD in the nation,” Murkowski said in a speech submitted for the record.

“Approximately 160 Alaskan babies are born each year affected by maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. Among our Native communities, the rate of FASD is 15 times higher than non-Native areas in our state. But this year I am proud to report that our statistics have vastly improved.

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“More work can and should certainly be done, but this is a remarkable improvement for a state with historically the highest rate of FASD. 40,000 American children each year are born with FASD. But education, prevention, treatment, and research of FASD will save countless future healthcare costs relating to this devastating, but entirely preventable disorder.

“I hope we continue to recognize, to pause in the ninth hour of the ninth day of each September until fetal alcohol syndrome disorders are eradicated.”

According to Murkowski's press release, progress is being made with FASD in Alaska, study and prevention efforts contributing to the rate among Alaska Native babies decreasing by 49 percent from 1996 to 2002, and the overall rate of FASD dropping by 32 percent in the same period.