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California Department of Public Health Reports Decline in Kettleman City Birth Defects

July 2, 2012 by Eric Adair in News with 0 Comments

A recent report issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), “Birth Defects in Kettleman City and Surrounding Areas 2009-2011 Update” (pdf), suggests a reversal in a perceived increase in birth defects observed in Kettleman City.

In February 2010, the CDPH, in collaboration with the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) and the Maternal, Child Adolescent Health Program (MCAHP), issued a report, “Birth Defects In Kettleman City” (pdf). That report contained the results of the Department’s investigation into claims of a possible increase in birth defects in Kettleman City and surrounding areas. The 2010 report concluded:

  • There were no patterns among cases to suggest that there was a common underlying cause for the birth defects in Kettleman City.
  • The overall birth defects rate in Kettleman City for the time period monitored (1987-2008) was not higher than expected.
  • In 2008, four cases were identified in Kettleman City – one more than would be expected based on the historic pattern.
  • In small populations, a grouping of birth defects can happen together by chance from time to time.
  • Continued monitoring of births in Kettleman City will provide further information.

A further report prepared by the CDPH and the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), “Investigation of Birth Defects and Community Exposures in Kettleman City, CA” (pdf), was released in December 2010. Commenting on the report’s failure to find a common underlying cause for the birth defects, former CDPH Director Mark Horton said:

While we wish there was an explanation for what caused the birth defects experienced by the children we studied in Kettleman City, our investigation finds that no common health or environmental factor links the cases.

The recent 2012 update to the February 2010 report reviewed completed birth data for 2009 and preliminary data for 2010-2011. Acknowledging an increase in the rate of birth defects in Kettleman City in 2008 and 2009, the report concluded that  rates in 2010 and 2011 appear to be returning to the lower rates seen in Kettleman City prior to 2008. Consistent with the prior studies, CDPH program staff did not find any patterns among cases to suggest a common underlying cause for the birth defects.

Additional information from the CDPH may be found in its “Questions and Answers about Birth Defects in Kettleman City 2009-2011 Update” (pdf).

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