Health Officials Meet To Discuss Washington Birth Defect

Jun 17, 2014
Originally published on June 16, 2014 5:14 pm

A rare birth defect is affecting more babies in Central Washington. After hosting a series of public hearings, regulators and health officials met Monday to talk about their next steps.

Since 2010, anencephaly, a rare and fatal birth defect, has shown up in Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties at about 4 times the national average.

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

So far state health officials have discounted several possible causes including: pesticide exposure, nitrates in water wells, and radiation from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Officials are still looking into other possibilities raised by people living in the area.

Cathy Wasserman is the state epidemiologist. She says officials have noted 32 cases of anencephaly in Central Washington since 2010. Five cases have happened this year.

An advisory committee of experts and local officials is deciding what steps to take next. That plan should be ready this summer.

Wasserman says the best known way to prevent anencephaly, and related neural tube birth defects, is for women of childbearing age to take folic acid.

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