Title: Washington State Health Officials Stumped by High Rate of Birth Defects
Source: ABC News with Diane Sawyer
Author: Gillian Mohney
Date: July 18, 2013
A high rate of birth defects has confounded Washington health officials, who have been unable to identify a cause.
A report released Tuesday by the Washington State Department of Health said that, since 2010, the neighboring counties of Yakima, Benton and Franklin have an unusually high number pregnancies affected by the [neural tube] birth defect anencephaly, which results in a newborns’ brains being severely underdeveloped.
In the U.S., there are approximately one or two expected cases of anencephaly for every 10,000 annual births [...] the health department found that there was an abnormally high number of cases reported from January 2010 to January 2013 with approximately eight cases of anencephaly for every 10,000 births. [...]
In addition to looking at supplemental folic health, the department also looked for variations in other risk factors, including family history, pre-pregnancy weight and whether or not the mothers drank water from a private or public source. [...]
“There’s one region in the state (that’s had a spike),” said [Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health]. “It could be complete coincidence” [...]
Dr. Joanne Stone, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, said anencephaly can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and that the increase in cases is worrisome. [...]
“Could it be a fluke? We don’t know. It could take time to uncover some sort of (unusual) exposure.”
U.S. Department of Energy: Two studies of birth defects in Benton and Franklin Counties were published in 1988. [...] Results showed a statistically significant association between preconception exposure of the parents to ionizing radiation and neural tube defects in their infants.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: Twelve specific malformations were analyzed for evidence of association with parental employment at Hanford and with occupational exposure to ionizing radiation. [...] Neural tube defects showed a significant association with parental pre-conception exposure [...]
Centers for Disease Control: The authors examined the prevalence of congenital malformations among births in Benton and Franklin counties, in southeastern Washington State, from 1968 through 1980. [...] Among defects that would be expected to be comparably ascertained, a statistically significant elevated rate of neural tube defects was observed (1.72 per 1,000 births vs. 0.99 per 1,000). [...] When rates of neural tube defects were compared with those in populations other than the Birth Defects Monitoring Program, the Benton and Franklin county rates were still considered to be elevated.
Published: July 22nd, 2013 at 12:27 pm ET