Birth Defects
7:42 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Washington Needs Your Help In Birth Defect Mystery

Over the past three years, a rare birth defect has shown up Central Washington at about four times the national average. Now, the state health department is turning to the public for clues about what’s causing the fatal defect. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

At a meeting in Kennewick, the health department asked people to raise concerns about a rare birth defect that officials may not have considered yet. Twenty-three babies were born with anencephaly in Central Washington from 2010-2013.
Credit Courtney Flatt / Earth Fix

When babies are born with anencephaly their brains and skulls don’t form completely.

At a meeting in Kennewick, the health department asked people to raise concerns officials may not have considered yet.

Audience members asked several questions about what could be causing the defects: Could it be pesticide exposure? Are similar symptoms showing up in animals? What about lead and arsenic in the soil?

Health department officials responded by saying they didn’t know, but would look into it.

Sara Barron asked several questions at the meeting. She’s the registered nurse who first alerted the health department to the large number of cases in the area.

Barron: “This can’t go on. If there is a smoking gun, we need to find it and stop it now.”

The state is forming an advisory group to help decide what to do next. Right now, doctors say the best prevention is for women of childbearing age to take folic acid.

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