A 5-year, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) primary prevention study was conducted in Washington State to: (1) assess the feasibility of using a FAS diagnostic and prevention clinic as a centre for identifying and targeting primary prevention intervention to high-risk women (namely women who had given birth to a child with FAS); (2) generate a comprehensive, lifetime profile of these women; (3) identify factors that have enhanced and/or hindered their ability to achieve abstinence. The results of this study are presented in two parts: work on objective 1 is summarized in the present paper; whereas that on objectives 2 and 3 is summarized in the accompanying paper. This project demonstrated that a multidisciplinary FAS Diagnostic and Prevention Network (FAS DPN) clinic could successfully attract and meet the diagnostic and treatment planning needs of patients presenting with prenatal alcohol exposure. One out of every three patients evaluated in the FAS DPN clinics was diagnosed with FAS or static encephalopathy/alcohol exposed. The birth mothers of one out of every three of these children diagnosed with FAS or static encephalopathy/alcohol exposed could be located and directly contacted. Half of the birth mothers directly contacted were still at risk for producing more children damaged by prenatal alcohol exposure. Thus, one out of every 18 children evaluated in the FAS DPN clinics had a birth mother who could be found and was at risk of producing more children damaged by prenatal alcohol exposure. Primary prevention programmes targeted to this high-risk population could lead to measurable, cost-effective reductions in the incidence of FAS. Using this approach, the cost of raising a child with FAS would be roughly 30 times the cost of preventing FAS in the child. The benefit to the children, their mothers, and society would be immeasurable.