Foster parents and public health groups have urged federal politicians to take urgent action to prevent more babies from suffering Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
A parliamentary inquiry has been told that warning labels about the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy should be mandatory on liquor bottles.
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder refers to a variety of conditions that can affect development, mainly due to damage in the developing central nervous system.
One foster mother, whose identity was kept confidential by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, described the condition as ''cruel, insidious and wholly preventable''.
''Without proper diagnosis, early intervention and recognition of the problems as valid disabilities, the outlook for children like my foster son is bleak,'' she said.
The woman said that she and her husband have cared for a boy with FASD for eight years, beginning when he was two-years-old.
''The child's behaviour and development were affected in every way: he has major learning disabilities, poor impulse control, poor memory and concentration, inability to understand or learn social mores and consequences, no empathy, poor gross and fine motor skills, inability to grasp abstract concepts such as numbers,'' she said.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union said in a submission to the inquiry that education programs should be made available in high schools and the general community to warn women of the dangers of consuming alcohol when they were pregnant or hoping to become so.
''Education aids such as leaflets and dolls replicating the condition, are very important and need to be readily available at low cost,'' the submission said.
''But technology needs to be used to the full with TV advertisements (such as used for road trauma), websites, Facebook, Twitter etc, also apps for mobile phones. Education needs to target male as well as female so that males are supportive of their partners' choices.''
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said a mandatory warning label regime for alcohol products sold in Australia should be introduced, including a message about the risk of consuming alcohol while pregnant.
The foundation also called for a national standardised diagnostic tool. It is not known how many people in Australia have FASDs.
National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines advise pregnant women that it is safest to avoid consuming any alcohol.
But in a submission to the inquiry, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia warned government agencies against making ''alarmist statements''.
''Given the evidence against very low levels consumption is unclear or non-existent, public health campaigns should avoid alarmist statements about the impact of low levels of alcohol on foetal development with the goal of scaring women into abstinence,'' the council's submission said. ''Alarmist and simplistic statements have real potential to cause great harm if they lead to unwarranted anxiety, depression, or terminations.''
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