Published: September 16th, 2014 at 12:31 pm ET
Tweet by JoNel Aleccia, former NBC News reporter, Sept 2, 2014: Five pregnancies with anencephaly in Central WA state with due dates this year. State, CDC plan interviews w/ moms
After writing one of the first reports on the extremely high rate of babies missing part of their brain (anencephaly) in the 3 counties surrounding the Hanford nuclear site, Aleccia left NBC News. She is now a staff writer at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Sept. 2, 2014: ‘We take it on:’ Hutch team helps raise awareness of mysterious cluster of babies born with anencephaly… to tackle baffling problem — Outreach workers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are drawing on years of community connections in [the counties of Yakima, Benton, and Franklin in] south central Washington state to raise awareness about a devastating cluster of severe birth defects that no one can explain… babies are born without parts of the skull and brain… 32 babies since 2010… there were five women in the region who reported they were pregnant with babies with anencephaly, all due later this year, according to Washington state health officials… “A lot of what we do is around cancer prevention, but when we hear of other things that also affect health disparities, we take it on.” State and federal officials are urging groups like the Fred Hutch team to help…
It is interesting that a cancer center is getting involved with this Hanford-area birth defect cluster, especially when that cancer center played a key role in the controversial ‘Hanford Thyroid Disease Study’.
According to a review of the study by the National Academy of Sciences: “it appears that the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle enjoyed greater public trust than the federal agencies while carrying out the HTDS… [The study’s] public summary… was misleading… the results of the HTDS were presented with unqualified certainty… Statements attributed to the HTDS investigators appear to have overstated the certainty of the results [such as claiming:] ‘These results provide rather strong evidence that exposures at these levels to 131I do not increase the risk of thyroid disease or hyperparathyroidism. These results should consequently provide a substantial degree of reassurance to the population exposed to Hanford radiation that the exposures are not likely to have affected their thyroid.’”
NBC Right Now, Aug 1, 2014: Local Birth Defect Moms Asking Why They’re Excluded From Cluster — “It’s terrifying”… said Nikki Shelton. Her son Corbin was born just months ago with Spina Bifida. She didn’t know he’d have a defect until he was born… When we asked Shelton and Alicia Jones, whose son Noah has the same defect, if they were under the assumption the Department of Health was including them under their research they both said, “Yes”. “To come to find out that they’re heading onwards with anencephaly and not looking into Spina Bifida is disheartening,” explained Shelton… In Spina Bifida the baby is born with part of their spinal cord sticking out.
On the ‘Washington Neural Tube Defects Cluster’ Facebook page, Nikki Shelton recently wrote: “I wanted you all to have a few numbers to reference to see just how rapidly the Neural Tube Defects are rising in our area. The Department of Health says we are 4 times the national average but we have to be WAY higher than that!… Physicians in Washington are NOT required to report birth defects!! The hospitals also code any termination/miscarriage as a “Complication of Pregnancy”. There are many families that choose to abort once they find out their unborn child has a defect, these are NOT counted in the national average. Not to mention all the defects that are not being reported by the physicians!!!”
Perhaps state officials will see this report that was posted on their own website… yet no longer available: “Studies by Lowell E. Sever, an epidemiologist with Battelle’s Seattle Research Center, and others reported an association between neural tube defects [anencephaly/spina bifida] and the radiation dose fathers received before their children were conceived. Thiseffect was observed in children whose parents received low doses (100 millisieverts or less) of external whole-body radiation while working at Hanford… Other research suggests there is reason to believe that radiation exposure before pregnancy can increase the frequency of birth defects… Sever and others also conducted a study of birth defects in Washington’s Benton and Franklin counties near Hanford. The researchers examined the number of cases of certain birth defects between 1968 and 1980. There were more neural tube defects than expected when the county rates were compared with rates from Washington, Oregon and Idaho… Conclusion — As with other health effects from radiation, it is assumed that any exposure to radiation carries some risk of genetic effects and birth defects.”