Developmental eye defects such as coloboma are a significant cause of visual morbidity in children, and are more common in India than elsewhere. The possible role of environmental factors in the aetiology of these conditions was investigated by studying birth order, symptoms of vitamin A deficiency (night blindness), drug use and maternal illness in pregnancy, rubella antibodies and exposure to agricultural chemicals. Through hospital records and community-based rehabilitation programmes in Andhra Pradesh, children with colobomata were recruited from schools for the blind. Eighty-three mothers of affected children were interviewed. The results showed that 43% of parents were consanguineous, that 19% had a positive family history and that the frequency of coloboma was highest in second-born children. Eleven (16%) mothers had a history of night blindness while pregnant with the affected child; seven (8%) took medication during the 1st trimester, abortifacients in two cases; three reported fever in the 1st trimester; and 11 (13%) reported exposure to agricultural chemicals.