Babies left brain damaged by mothers who drink
About 600 babies are being left brain damaged annually because their mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy.
A zero-tolerance approach to drinking while pregnant was needed, said Dr Mary T O'Mahony, a specialist in public health medicine with the Health Service Executive.
She said children with such brain damage "fill our foster care places and as adults our jails, and many people are misdiagnosed".
She estimated that 40,000 people were living with the brain damage, known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, and some were ending up with physical, mental, educational, social and behavioural difficulties.
She told the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO): "Ireland features as one of the five countries with the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and consequent cases of foetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a permanent disability called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
"The consequences are induced brain damage which is permanent and is associated with physical, mental, educational, social and behavioural difficulties."
The brain damage can result in severe brain dysfunction at 10 years of age.
It also caused attention deficit disorder, she said.