State Releases Data on Birth Defect Investigation

<p>Olivia Jackman</p>

Olivia Jackman

The Washington State Department of Health releases new data today showing a rare birth defect that has affected Yakima, Benton and Franklin Counties.

In 2013, 7 different cases of anencephaly were reported in our region, 4 times higher than the national rate -- it's an often fatal birth defect in which infants are born missing a large portion of their brain.

The state says they have been investigating the problem for some time, however, no exact cause has been pin-pointed.

"We compared the women who had neural tube defect pregnancies to healthy pregnancies to see if we could find differences," said spokesperson Mandy Stahre, "We did an extensive records review, we didn't find any differences."

The state also found a low rate of folic acid consumption in the area -- which could also be related to birth defects.

But mothers like Andrea Jackman aren't buying it.

Jackman's daughter Olivia was born with spina bifida, her spinal cord failed to form properly.

Olivia has garnered national attention for her condition, Andrea appeared on The Doctors two weeks agao, but says the state has not made any effort to contact her.

"Nobody's contacted me, nobody's asked me any questions, nothing," said Jackman, "If you're researching it, what are you researching if you're not looking into the actual facts of each specific case?"

"The problem with some of these interviews is you're asking someone 'what did you eat three months before you became pregnant?' we're going back several years," said Stahre, "With medical records, these were taken at the time of pregnancy, we're able to get a little bit more accurate information."

The state says it will now begin hosting public information sessions, and are working to form an advisory committee full of national experts on birth defects.

"We're going to focus on them to tell us what our next step should be; should we look at other things in the environment we haven't considered, what should be our next steps?" said Stahre.

"You can do all the research you want, but unless you link together the birth defect and the cause, in my opinion, it's not doing any good," said Jackman.