Washington State is suffering from a strange trend because a rare birth defect is on the rise and health officials are mystified. The bizarre events were first brought to the public’s attention back in 2012 by a nurse named Sara Barron who was employed at a rural hospital in Washington at that time. The nurse came across two different cases where babies were born with anencephaly. That is when a neural tube birth defect happens which causes newborns to develop without having specific parts of their brains or skulls. It is a shattering medical condition that usually only affects about one child out of every 10,000 births. Anencephaly happens when the top portion of the neural tube fails to close during the first month of a woman being pregnant. The majority of babies who are born with such a condition die soon after they are born.
Barron, who works now as a nursing instructor at a university, stated that the first case was shocking. Then not even a month had passed, there was yet another mother who arrived and delivered a baby who also had anencephaly. This ended up getting the attention of the entire hospital. It definitely seemed that to have two babies suffering from such a birth defect in only two months inside a hospital that was so small, it seemed like too much.
The nurse had only seen such a severe problem in over 30 years of nursing two other times. So when she heard of yet a third case of anencephaly that occurred at another hospital which was over 25 miles away, she knew it was time to speak to the Washington State Department of Health.
Barron stated that she told the health department that she knew of three cases of anencephaly that had occurred in just two months. She asked if anyone else had seen it as well. One other person stated that at the small hospital she worked at, that they had just seen one as well. Barron exclaimed that the birth defects were way too many for such a small area. Her report began a state health department investigation. When they examined both hospital and medical records covering three different adjoining counties in Washington State, health executives discovered that the birth defect was indeed growing in the area.
In a report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were a total of nearly 25 anencephaly cases in the Washington State expanse between the months and years of Jan. 2010 to Jan. 2013. This equaled to around eight cases for every 10,000 live births. In comparison, throughout the entire United States, there was an average of only two anencephaly cases for every 10,000 live births that happened during the same time period.
Washington State health officials do not yet know what is causing such a confined trend. A research study that investigated possible causes of the increase stated that there were no common conditions, causes or exposures found. The state health department stated there was always trouble when using medical records to try and figure out what the problem stems from. Medical records may not have been able to gather all pertinent information and could prevent a possible cause from being recognized, they added in a news release.
Even though the precise cause of the Washington cases has yet to be determined, Barron thinks the pregnancy birth defects might be related to the agricultural industry, due to the majority of mothers affected lived in rural regions. She stated that her theory is that it is something agricultural, such as brand new pesticides, which have been known to create neural defects. That is just a chance guess, but all these women lived in very rural areas. It could be the mosquito sprays, because it is very likely they would be in the farm fields or exposed to husbands that had been out farming. The cases all happened upstream and were way upwind of the Handford nuclear plant, so it was not radiation from there.
With there being such mystery all around these anencephaly cases, Barron thinks that more needs to be done to reach the root of the problem. She declared that Washington State health administrators could use student researchers to hold investigations or interview mothers that resided in the region. She said that she wished they had done more. She said the state was looking at the difference between well water and city water, but they explained that they found no difference between the healthy and unusual deliveries. But because they failed to interview any of the women who had went through the abnormal births, it was not clear what water the women had been ingesting when they first conceived. Even in their medical records, it does not show how early they began to take folic acid.
Because Washington State is suffering from a string of rare birth defects that have left state health officials mystified. The bizarre events were first brought to the public’s attention back in 2012 by a nurse named Sara Barron who was employed at a rural hospital in Washington at that time. So far, no progress has been made in finding a cause.
By Kimberly Ruble