From: john on
(NaturalNews) Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which the intestines, and
sometimes other organs, develop outside the fetal abdomen and poke out
through an opening in the abdominal wall. Long considered a rare occurrence,
gastroschisis has mysteriously been on the rise over the last three decades.
In fact, the incidence of the defect has soared, increasing two to four
times in the last 30 years. But why?

Researchers think they've found the answer. The culprit behind the suffering
of babies born with this condition appears to be the agricultural chemical
atrazine. That's the conclusion of a study just presented at the annual
meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) held in Chicago.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle were alerted to a
higher than normal number of cases in of the birth defect in babies born in
eastern Washington. So they began investigating to see if the increased
incidence was due to some kind of environmental exposure in that area.

"Our state has about two times the national average number of cases of
gastroschisis," Dr. Sarah Waller, one of the study's authors, said in a
statement to the media. "The life expectancy for fetuses with this diagnosis
is better than 90 percent; however it requires delivery at a tertiary care
center with immediate neonatal intervention which often separates families
and can cause serious financial and emotional stress."

The condition can lead to poor function of the bowel after delivery and
potential long term feeding problems. Bottom line: babies with this birth
defect must undergo the trauma of surgery right after birth. And while most
survive, some babies with gastroschisis have significant damage to the bowel
due to direct contact between the intestine and amniotic fluid or because
the intestine was twisted. These infants may develop a condition known as
"short gut" which can lead to stunted growth and a host of feeding and other

For the new study, Dr. Waller and her research team went to work
investigating all cases of live born infants with gastroschisis during the
period between 1987 and 2006. They matched birth certificates with databases
from the U.S. Geological Survey that revealed where agricultural spraying
took place and what chemicals were used. It turns out the chemicals
atrazine, nitrates, and 2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid were heavily sprayed
in the area.

Of the 805 cases and 3,616 controls in the study, gastroschisis developed
far more frequently among babies whose mothers lived less than 25 km from
the site of high surface water that was specifically contaminated with one
of the chemicals -- atrazine. What's more, the risk of gastroschisis was
found to especially rise in babies of women who conceived in the spring,
from March through May. Those are the months when use of the chemical is the
most prevalent.

The problem with atrazine

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), atrazine is applied
to crops (especially corn, sorghum, and sugarcane) before and after planting
to control broadleaf and grassy weeds. It is used most heavily in the
Midwest on agricultural crops but it is also applied to residential lawns,
particularly in Florida and the Southeast.

Problems linked to atrazine have been in the news previously. Earlier
research showed it causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and the chemical has
also been linked to prostate cancer in workers at an atrazine manufacturing

So why is it still widely used? Unfortunately, the EPA has done little to
address the mounting evidence that atrazine is harmful to humans as well as
animals. Last fall the agency announced it was going to start a new
assessment of the chemical in 2010 that could take months to years to
complete. In the meantime, tons of atrazine will continue to be sprayed on
crops and lawns -- and mothers and their unborn babies will continue to be
exposed to this chemical now linked to a serious and potentially deadly
birth defects.

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