February 26th, 2014
10:17 PM ET

Birth defect surge in Washington state stumps medical officials

In one small pocket of Washington state, a devastating type of birth defect is occurring at rates that are off-the-charts. Almost all affected babies die shortly after birth. Some experts say that it's possible this is just a random cluster of horrible luck. But what if something in the environment is the culprit? State health officials say they've looked and found nothing. But there are serious questions being raised about that investigation. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the story.


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  1. thawktor

    I did some research last night, here is the likely explanation:

    There is radiation leaking nearby into the water supply and rivers:

    "On February 15, 2013, Governor Jay Inslee announced a tank storing radioactive waste at the site is leaking liquids on average of 150 to 300 gallons per year. He stressed that the leak poses no immediate health risk to the public, but said that fact should not be an excuse for not doing anything. On February 22, 2013, the Governor stated that "6 more tanks at Hanford site" than previously thought were "leaking radioactive waste" As of 2013, there are 177 tanks at Hanford (149 having a single shell). Older single shell tanks were initially used for storing radioactive liquid waste. The tanks were designed to last 20 years. By 2005, some liquid waste was transferred from single shell tanks to (safer) double shell tanks. However, a substantial amount of residue remains in the older single shell tanks with one containing an estimated 447,000 gallons of radioactive sludge, for example. It is believed that up to six of these "empty" tanks are leaking. Two tanks are reportedly leaking at a rate of 300 gallons per annum each, while the remaining four tanks are leaking at a rate of 15 gallons per year each."

    The same increase in neural tube defects have been observed in these exact same counties before from radiation exposure:

    "U.S. Department of Energy: Two studies of birth defects in Benton and Franklin Counties were published in 1988. Results showed a statistically significant association between preconception exposure of the parents to ionizing radiation and neural tube defects in their infants.
    Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: Twelve specific malformations were analyzed for evidence of association with parental employment at Hanford and with occupational exposure to ionizing radiation. Neural tube defects showed a significant association with parental pre-conception exposure
    Centers for Disease Control: The authors examined the prevalence of congenital malformations among births in Benton and Franklin counties, in southeastern Washington State, from 1968 through 1980. Among defects that would be expected to be comparably ascertained, a statistically significant elevated rate of neural tube defects was observed (1.72 per 1,000 births vs. 0.99 per 1,000). When rates of neural tube defects were compared with those in populations other than the Birth Defects Monitoring Program, the Benton and Franklin county rates were still considered to be elevated."

    It doesn't take a genius to see the connection, the same counties had these same birth defects increase when there was radiation exposure before, combine that with the discovery of radiation leakage in early 2013 that gets into the water supply and rivers, and you get the exact same rise in neural tube defects. Good job investigating Anderson Cooper /sarcasm (I suppose he does at least deserve credit for making me aware of this to investigate myself)." -SH

    February 27, 2014 at 4:32 am |
    • thawktor

      Oh and guess what there was a safety whistle blower who exposed radiation concerns and then was fired: google Donna Busche

      February 27, 2014 at 4:34 am |
    • catsgeesonexaminer

      I am impressed with the research you have done on this issue, Thawktor. Quite frankly, I think the Energy Department has been very closed-mouth about the dangers that are still present at the Hanford site. What we have in Washington state is just as bad, if not worse than the Fukushima disaster.

      March 3, 2014 at 1:17 am |
  2. jeffruns

    How can this cluster be a mystery to anyone? Hanford nuclear site is located squarely in the area in question. A couple of billion gallons of irradiated water in the water supply. What could possibly go wrong?

    February 27, 2014 at 2:04 am |
  3. mndreamerof2

    I remember when there was this same problem in Texas, near the border. There was severe poverty and no access to clean water.

    February 26, 2014 at 10:51 pm |

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