AP, Apr. 23, 2014: Puzzling rare birth defects in Eastern Washington — The state Health Department is trying to find the cause of an unusually high number of rare birth defects in south-central Washington.
NBC, Apr. 22, 2014 (emphasis added): Seven cases of a rare fatal birth defect were reported in a remote region of Washington state in 2013 [...] There’s still no clear reason for the spike in anencephaly, a severe defect in which babies are born missing parts of the brain or skull, according to Washington state health officials. [...] it brings to 30 the number of cases reported since 2010 in the area that includes Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties [...] rate jumped to 8.7 cases per 10,000 births in the region, far exceeding the national rate of 2.1 [...] Critics have said state and federal officials need to do detailed interviews and a thorough investigation of the central Washington cluster. Many local residents are convinced that leaking tanks of nuclear waste from the region’s nearby Hanford nuclear plant must be to blame, but Dr. Edith Cheng, a University Washington Medicine expert on birth defects, said there has not been a good evaluation of the plant’s impact [...]
Yakima Herald Republic, Apr. 22, 2014 (emphasis added): The explanation might be a perfect storm of social, economic, genetic and environmental factors, said epidemiologist Mandy Stahre [...] They did not show up seasonally, as would probably be the case if they were tied to pesticide exposure [...] They’re not focused near the Hanford site [??? See above map showing the 3 counties affected] Stahre said, the Health Department would have reported it by now [if that was the case.] Genetic counselor Susie Ball says that for birth defects like anencephaly to happen, there needs to be overlap of both genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Mandy Stahre, CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service officer: “We’re really concerned about the fact that the anencephaly rates are still so high. We were sort of hoping that this may have been a statistical anomaly or would go away.”
Institute for Children’s Environmental Health: Sever et al. (1988) [...] found elevated rates of neural tube defects [including anencephaly] in Franklin and Benton Counties
See also: CNN: “Horrible medical mystery… alarming rate of birth defects” in Washington — Babies missing parts of brain, skull — Mother outraged at gov’t — Nurse: “It’s very scary… absolutely something going on”
Published: April 24th, 2014 at 12:58 am ET