KEPR, May 14, 2014 (Emphasis Added): Serious and sometimes fatal birth defects are much more prevalent right here than anywhere else in the country. Benton, Franklin and Yakima Counties are being hit the hardest by neural tube defects, from spina bifida to anencephaly [fatal defect where large part of brain/skull is missing]. “it’s scary that the cause of this is such a mystery,” said Candelaria Murillo. […] Rate of babies being born without a brain in our part of the state is eight times the national average.
AP and other media outlets put the figure at “at least four times the national rate”. However, the Yakima Herald reports: “[Officials] issued a news release Jan. 30 announcing that eight cases of anencephaly had occurred in Yakima County in 2012. Typically [they] expect only one all year.”
NBC News, June 17, 2014: Health officials, scientists and other experts gathered to discuss the cause of an alarming local spike in the disorder […] [Local residents] wanted to know exactly how long the problem had been going on, whether it could be linked to diet, occupation, geography — or the Hanford nuclear plant in nearby Richland. State officials reiterated their previous answers — no, no, no and no […] “The next step is to interview the mothers and fathers of these babies,” [Allison Ashley-Koch, an anencephaly expert at the Duke University Medical Center for Human Genetics] said. “The challenge at this point is that many of these conceptions happened four years ago. So for parents to try and remember particular eating habits, environmental exposures and such is challenging.” […] “I believe it is an ongoing problem and I believe that the environment might have something to do with it,” Don Dufault said.
Oregon Public Broadcasting, June 16, 2014: Health officials have discounted several possible causes including: pesticide exposure, nitrates in water wells, and radiation from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Obstetrician Anita Showalter: “First thing I ask […] what environmental thing might have happened […] that we don’t know or understand yet?” […] She wonders if there might be chemicals present […]
CNN, June 1, 2014: Nearly two years after the state of Washington was alerted to a possible cluster of babies born with severe birth defects, experts are speaking out, criticizing the state health department for not doing enough to save babies’ lives. […] The Washington Department of Health has steadfastly refused to interview the parents of these babies and has failed to accept offers of help from world-renowned anencephaly experts. “It really looks like they’re dragging their feet,” said Richard Finnell, a pediatric geneticist and birth defect expert at the University of Texas. He said that to find the cause of the cluster, state investigators need to speak with the parents of children with birth defects […] But the state has not contacted these parents. […] A team of experts […] offered help to Washington investigators back in February but hasn’t received a response. “We’re frustrated that they’re not moving more quickly to find the cause,” said Janee Gelineau-van Waes […] an associate professor of pharmacology at the Creighton University School of Medicine […] “It’s very intrusive to start knocking on doors of people who’ve had a pretty major trauma in their lives,” [state epidemiologist, Juliet VanEenwyk] said. “That’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard,” said Billy Petersen, reflecting the viewpoint of several families interviewed by CNN whose children have neural tube defects. “We want to talk to them,” he said. “We’d do anything to help find out why our baby died and help other families. We don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve been through.”