ICBioethics Blog 

Washington’s Increased Rates of Anencephaly Remain Mystery

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

Anencephaly, a devastating diagnosis for pregnant women to hear, is a neural tube defect that prevents proper brain and skull development. Miscarriages or stillborns usually result, and surviving infants live only a few days. The CDC reports 1 anencephalic in 4,859 babies born in US, claiming no conclusive causes, but stating folic acid supplementation can lower risk.

Central Washington sees an abnormal rate of anencephalic babies specifically within two counties– more than four times the national distribution! Reportedly, national rates don’t have a singular cause and effect, but why this concentration

Public health experts, epidemiologists, and state advisory committee have been investigating, examining medical records, considering environmental and social factors, etc., but no pattern, no concrete cause, no leading theory emerges.

For now, CDC calls it a disease cluster (look up that term—but don’t expect an aha moment!).

Online comment sections of news reports are interesting. Mostly anonymous, come the blamers — radiation exposure, contaminated water supply, government cover-up . . . the usual suspects (my personal favorite was the call for Erin Brockovich to investigate). But for any side of this mystery, no one is showing any evidence. No one is providing information, just their conclusions or assumptions. Even those with personal axes to grind must admit that proving cause and effect is intricate, time-consuming, sometimes impossible. But maybe correlation . . . something, anything?!

More information might help – maybe more transparency from the government investigations regarding clear details of these studies – methods/variables/reliability, etc.?

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Mitch GennusoComment