In a previous post, I asked what chemical agent can cause both nervous and reproductive effects.

The chemical agent in question should have the potential to be fatal and preferably exert its effects on the nervous system, with symptoms including seizures and paralysis. Long-term effects of exposure on survivors must include cognitive deficits, such as memory loss and visual disturbances, as well as motor deficits such as tremors and muscle weakness. Some survivors could become sterile, but at least a percentage must be capable of reproduction, with the potential of having offspring with birth defects.

Children of the survivors could have physical malformations, but cognitive and motor deficits are preferable. In other words, they should express similar symptoms to those caused by the chemical agent, such as decreased concentration and memory, poor reasoning skills, seizures or tremors, and impaired motor functioning. These deficits must be inherited maternally.

I outlined the question this way specifically because my protagonist is born with a nervous system disorder. He is living in a post-war world, so I wanted to say that he was born this way because his mother was exposed to chemical warfare in her past. Initially, I was hoping to find a chemical agent that both (a) could affect the nervous system and (b) could affect female fertility, so that the nervous effects could be passed down to offspring.

I'm beginning to realize that there are several problems with this question. First, just because female fertility is affected by a specific chemical agent doesn't mean a child born will have those same effects. They can just as easily be born with birth defects that show no correlation to the effects the agent exerts. Second, I was trying to kill two birds with one stone, using the same agent to (a) justify why so many people in my setting have cognitive defects and (b) explain why my character was born with a nervous disorder.

I realize there may be no existing chemical agent that could exert these effects, but I'm now thinking that I'd like to separate these two events. A chemical agent like sarin nerve gas has caused detrimental cognitive effects in survivors. Unrelatedly, my protagonist is born with a nervous system disorder (tremors, muscle weakness) as a result of a chemical his mother was exposed to. I'm wondering what chemical that was. I'm thinking of tweaking the storyline so that she made chronic use of a perfume with synthetically-produced pheromones (this works with the storyline but is too complex to get into here).

What would be the effects of synthetic pheromones on female fertility? Could they impact the viability of offspring, and could they cause a child to be born with a nervous system disorder specifically?

I realize this is still a developing science and there is not much research available on it.


1 Answer 1


Blame the inactive ingredients

I guess this is a frame-challenge, because I'm not purporting to explain how a pheromone can cause the problem you want.

I wouldn't expect the pheromones themselves to be able to cause problems, and a pheromone product is presumably applied topically so it can evaporate into the surrounding air.

More likely, the chemical that causes the side-effects would be some other substance in the product that serves a supporting role, like an adhesive or a binding agent or something to facilitate slow release of the pheromone payload. A pheromone perfume isn't going to be just a bottle of pure pheromones, after all. If nothing else, it will probably have some kind of artificial scent added, which would be important to the user so they have some idea how much of the stuff they've applied.

  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, the real culprit might be imposter products. Genuine pheromone products that have provable effects will undoubtedly be expensive, and I would expect a healthy trade in counterfeits. Many of these will be made out of really dangerous garbage with no thought given to long-term consequences for users. Many counterfeiters will have their own special recipe that they swear by, not as a functional equivalent, but as a convincing fraud, and human nature being what it is, many of these recipes will feature one or more key ingredients which are known to be very toxic. Esp. Pb. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ That's an interesting idea $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 0:17

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