Investigation into Anencephaly Rise in Washington

In the spring of 2012, a nurse in Washington State detected a cluster of babies born with anencephaly – a fatal condition in which infants are born without parts of the brain or skull. The resulting investigation initially confirmed a rate of anencephaly between January 2010 and January 2013 of 8.4 per 10,000 live births – more than four times the national average. As of November 2015, cases of anencephaly in Washington State have continued to increase, with the current rate estimated at 9.5 per 10,000 live births. While no distinct cause has yet been determined, neural tube defects-including anencephaly – are known to have multiple causes, including folic acid deficit, genetic variants in the folate pathway, and exposure to a variety of environmental and occupational toxins.1

The DOH initiated an investigation and has since discovered rising rates of Anencephaly in the Washington state counties of Benton, Yakima, and Franklin.

The investigation has thus far confirmed that there is a rise in NTDs (Neural Tube Defects), with a predominance of anencephaly.  Their study did not specify the exact cause of this rise in these three counties (as compared to other areas).

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