Washington state has been seeing a disturbing trend that has been increasing in its Yakima Valley region. More and more frequently babies are being born with unexplainable birth defects and it has health officials across the state perplexed.
One of the most frightening birth defects that has been occurring has been anencephaly, where the child is born missing part or all of its brain and skull. Over a three year period there were 23 cases of anecephaly int the southern Washington counties of Yakima, Franklin, and Benton, making the rate of births that have that defect four times the national average, or 8.4 per 10,000.
A nurse in the southern Washington area spoke to what she has been seeing happen.
Sara Barron said “I was just stunned,” then explained how horrific it is for a child to be born that way. “Three in a couple-of-month period of time… that’s unheard of, and they have such tragic, terrible outcomes.”
The numbers that were mentioned came from Barron’s report, which were enough to eventually prompt state health officials to investigate and find out what it was that was causing these defects.
Those investigating the matter found themselves to be stumped. They said there wasn’t anything they could specifically link to the cause for anencephaly.
“We have not found an answer, and that’s a very frustrating part, because this is such a devastating diagnosis for a woman to have,” Mandy Stahre from the Department of Health in Washington State said.
The lack of findings from the investigation caused Barron to believe that maybe investigators didn’t dig deep enough in their search and didn’t look for everything that could possibly be causing the defects. She noted that the health department officials didn’t speak to any of the parents of the children born with the defects, which means they’re unfamiliar with their diets and any chemicals they may have come in contact with. The chemical she speaks of are the pesticides that are heavily sprayed in the area which is primarily agricultural.
According to the press release from the Department of Health they only really looked into genetic and other strictly medical causes like prescription drugs.
“The study examined medical records from January 2010 through January 2013 and looked at possible risk factors including family history, pre-pregnancy weight, health risk behaviors such as supplemental folic acid and medication use, and whether the woman’s residence received drinking water from a public or private source. No significant differences were found when comparing cases of anencephaly with healthy births in the three county area,” the release said.
One parent, whose daughter was born with spina bifida, said that she never heard a word from the Health Department investigators.
“Nobody’s asked me anything,” Andrea Jackman said, she also added that she would have been more than happy had investigators talked to her so that she could have some answers regarding her daughter’s condition.
The Health Department even admitted that they may not have gone far enough in their investigation, however Stahre tried to justify it after the fact.
The press release said that “Medical record reviews might not have captured all information, preventing a cause from being identified,” however Stahre said that they had tried to consider the feelings of the families involved and whther or not they wanted investigators asking them too many questions.
“This is a devastating diagnosis, and we know that for a lot of these women, they had to make some hard choices. We do have to weigh about how invasive we want to be with these types of reviews.”
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