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Biden said he wouldn't consider changing the drinking age from 21 to 18 because of the negative effects of alcohol. As evidence, he said 300,000 babies suffer birth defects each year because their mothers are alcoholics.
Problem is, that number is way off. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome states that about 40,000 children are born each year suffering from Fetal Alchol Spectrum Disorders, which includes birth defects, but also conditions such as learning disabilities or poor motor skills. The group says that number is more than Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome and Muscular Dystrophy combined, but it's still quite a way from 300,000.
As for birth defects alone, the Surgeon General says that alcohol-related birth defects affect between .5 and 2 infants per 1,000 births. That comes to between about 2,100 and 8,300 cases a year, given current birth rates.
U.S. Surgeon General, Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy, February 2005.
Centers for Disease Control, Births: Preliminary Data for 2005.
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