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Mon Feb 17, 2014, 08:45 AM

'Bizarre' Cluster of Severe Birth Defects Stuns Health Experts

A mysterious cluster of severe birth defects in rural Washington state is confounding health experts, who say they can find no cause, even as reports of new cases continue to climb.

Federal and state officials won’t say how many women in a three-county area near Yakima, Wash., have had babies with anencephaly, a heart-breaking condition in which they’re born missing parts of the brain or skull. And they admit they haven't interviewed any of the women in question, or told the mothers there's a potentially widespread problem.

But as of January 2013, officials with the Washington state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had counted nearly two dozen cases in three years, a rate four times the national average.

Since then, one local genetic counselor, Susie Ball of the Central Washington Genetics Program at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, says she has reported “eight or nine” additional cases of anencephaly and spina bifida, another birth defect in which the neural tube, which forms the brain and spine, fails to close properly.

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/bizarre-cluster-severe-birth-defects-stuns-health-experts-n24986

59 replies, 4599 views

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Reply 'Bizarre' Cluster of Severe Birth Defects Stuns Health Experts (Original post)
jakeXT Feb 2014 OP
postulater Feb 2014 #1
kristopher Feb 2014 #15
AtheistCrusader Feb 2014 #25
LiberalEsto Feb 2014 #53
2naSalit Feb 2014 #44
Warpy Feb 2014 #50
Brainstormy Feb 2014 #17
stonecutter357 Feb 2014 #2
Orrex Feb 2014 #4
stonecutter357 Feb 2014 #6
Orrex Feb 2014 #11
Android3.14 Feb 2014 #14
stonecutter357 Feb 2014 #20
JimDandy Feb 2014 #26
LiberalEsto Feb 2014 #54
RC Feb 2014 #5
Orrex Feb 2014 #9
stonecutter357 Feb 2014 #16
progressoid Feb 2014 #47
AtheistCrusader Feb 2014 #23
Brickbat Feb 2014 #33
jeff47 Feb 2014 #37
bvar22 Feb 2014 #48
GoneFishin Feb 2014 #51
HuckleB Feb 2014 #49
spinbaby Feb 2014 #3
SheilaT Feb 2014 #31
DeadLetterOffice Feb 2014 #34
FloridaJudy Feb 2014 #56
MrScorpio Feb 2014 #7
jwirr Feb 2014 #18
ReRe Feb 2014 #42
KewlKat Feb 2014 #8
AtheistCrusader Feb 2014 #24
DeSwiss Feb 2014 #10
Orrex Feb 2014 #13
kristopher Feb 2014 #19
Orrex Feb 2014 #27
stonecutter357 Feb 2014 #21
Orrex Feb 2014 #29
GoneFishin Feb 2014 #52
DeSwiss Feb 2014 #22
Orrex Feb 2014 #28
DeSwiss Feb 2014 #35
Orrex Feb 2014 #36
Orrex Feb 2014 #41
spike91nz Feb 2014 #38
Orrex Feb 2014 #39
LiberalEsto Feb 2014 #55
ReRe Feb 2014 #45
hedgehog Feb 2014 #12
hedgehog Feb 2014 #32
packman Feb 2014 #30
Rozlee Feb 2014 #40
uppityperson Feb 2014 #43
bkanderson76 Feb 2014 #46
Scuba Feb 2014 #57
womanofthehills Feb 2014 #58
mzteris Feb 2014 #59

Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:11 AM

1. Farm chemicals was my first thought.

I hope they can track down any link.

And I didn't know about the variance in nitrate content of water sources.

Good read.

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Response to postulater (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:28 AM

15. Hanford Nuclear Reservation Superfund Site is in Benford County

With the addition of 9 more cases that brings the rate to about 11.6 per 10K or nearly 6 times average.

Hanford is in Benton County.

"The agencies released a report last summer detailing an investigation of 27 women with pregnancies that resulted in neural tube defects in Yakima, Franklin and Benton counties between 2010 and 2013. That included 23 cases of anencephaly, a rate of 8.4 per 10,000 live births, far higher than the national rate of 2.1 cases per 10,000. There were three cases of spina bifida and one with encephalocele, a sac-like protrusion of the brain through the front or back of the skull.



The mess gets worse at Hanford’s nuclear site
A scientific dispute over the cleanup of one of the most polluted sites in the country threatens to ensnare the Energy Department’s new leadership

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/11/18/13770/mess-gets-worse-hanford-s-nuclear-site


Hanford Superfund Site History
http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/0/045F8399CAA1B6BD882573FC0069B078?OpenDocument

Hanford Site
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Site#Environmental_concerns

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Response to kristopher (Reply #15)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:46 AM

25. Also possibly DU dust, Yakima hosts the WANG firing ranges.

In Libby Mt., the spouses of the miners got asbestosis as well. The miners brought the tremolite home on their clothing. Falls off in the house, comes out in the wash/dryer vent filter. Fun shit. Kills you slow.

Entirely possible people are bringing home depleted uranium the same way. Or any other number of hazards from that range.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #25)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:08 PM

53. Same thing with asbestos in Manville NJ

The husbands worked at Johns-Manville, which manufactured asbestos products. They got sick, and so did their wives - from washing the work clothes. This was in the 1970s.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #15)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 12:10 PM

44. I'll wager a guess

that it's all of the above in combination... it's a nasty toxic mix of weapons materials, pesticides and whatever else is in the area. Last time I was in the Yakima valley, there was something funky about the water too... can't recall what that was but I was doing some work for the state's dept. of ecology at the time and saw that the Hispanic community was pissed off about environmental issues in the area.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #15)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 04:57 PM

50. That was my first thought, as well

I also think there's a repository of chemical weapons from the 70s there, weapons that have no way of being detoxified and many of which are leaking.

The Cold War never had to turn hot. The aftereffects are killing people all over the country almost as effectively as a shooting war would have.

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Response to postulater (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:29 AM

17. My first thought too

Even the EPA acknowledges that laboratory studies have shown that pesticides cause birth defects. Glysophate in particular has been associated with deformities in a host of laboratory animals.

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/health/birthdefects.php

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:43 AM

2. Fukushima?

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:50 AM

4. Kneejerk?

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Response to Orrex (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:56 AM

6. It was a question shill.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:22 AM

11. And quite a silly one at that.

You might as readily blame North Korea's nuclear testing or the Tunguska incident of 1908.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:28 AM

14. No it wasn't

We all know there are no stupid questions. Since "Fukushima?" incontrovertibly lacks intelligence or common sense (definition of "stupid"), then it is logically impossible for it to also be a question.
I'd go for calling it a typo.

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Response to Android3.14 (Reply #14)


Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:49 AM

26. It was a good question, too.

Noone interviewed the mothers of these babies. The agency said they didn't have the resources, but what about having some grad students research this cluster for their theses. There are good universities in the state with resources to support research like this.

Without doing the research, the cause can be attributed to anything, and being human, that's what people will do. So why leave it open to speculation... serious or not.

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Response to JimDandy (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:10 PM

54. But the corporate power structure doesn't want researchers to find the cause(es)

Heaven forbid some poor starving little pesticide mega-corporation, chemical manufacturer or other big business might become liable for their own mess.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:56 AM

5. How many of those mothers visited the reactor sites?

 

It takes a chemical analysis to even notice any radiation from Fukusima in West coast of North America.

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Response to RC (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:13 AM

9. Apparently it was a question shill.

Whatever the hell a question shill is.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #9)


Response to Orrex (Reply #9)


Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:42 AM

23. No.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:18 AM

33. Since the cluster dates back to January 2010, no.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:26 AM

37. Here's why you question was dumb:

Fukushima could not create such a small cluster. All of WA has nearly the same exposure to Fukushima. So Fukushima-induced birth defects would be seen throughout the state, not just in the "rural areas".

Additionally, Oregon and Northern CA also have nearly the same exposure, so they too would have the same birth defect rate.

Additionally, places closer to Fukushima would have more exposure, and thus more of these birth defects. So you'd see more cases in Alaska. Plus there's this country called Japan that's a wee bit closer to Fukushima. Both are not experiencing the higher rate of these specific birth defects.

Additionally, there's the time-traveling problem. The higher rate of birth defects started before Fukushima blew up.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 01:40 PM

48. For those who don't know where these counties are,

Fukushima was probably everybody's first thought.

It was mine too until I Googled where these counties are.
They are in the interior of Washington State, on the other side of the Cascade Mountains from the coast.
Mid to South Central Washington State, far from the coast.

This is Google Map for Yakima County.

The other two counties (Franklin and Benton) are immediately to the east/north of Yakima County.

IIRC, this area is very rural and very dry... near desert.

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Response to bvar22 (Reply #48)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 05:08 PM

51. Thanks for the sensible helpful information instead of snark. nt

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 03:47 PM

49. Why do so many people at DU jump to conclusions/supposed questions?

Offering the same stuff over and over again, yet so many refuse to spend the time to understand the science of anything at all?

It's just bizarre.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:50 AM

3. Sometimes it is just chance

Pure chance will result in some clusters of birth defects or disease. That's not to say there's not something going on to cause them, but just that the existence of a cluster doesn't mean there's something causing it.

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Response to spinbaby (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:15 AM

31. My first thought also.

Of course, any cluster does need to be looked at carefully just in case there is something else -- something preventable -- going on.

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Response to spinbaby (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:19 AM

34. Absolutely

But that's a hard concept for many people. Statistical probabilities and population variance requires that some places have a higher rate of x and some places have lower.

If your average population has a rate of 5/1000 of some disease/disorder, that means that for every place that has a rate of 0/1000, someplace else has a rate of 10/1000. Which is 100% higher than the average, which is really fucking scary when it's reported without any background on how population rates vary and can lead to panic and fear.

Which isn't to say that you don't investigate 'high' cluster rates. Just that some of those 'high' cluster rates are a result of statistical variation.

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Response to spinbaby (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 18, 2014, 03:02 AM

56. Yup. That's a possible explanation.

There are two other aspects of neural tube defects that would need to be addressed before jumping to the conclusion that some sort of environmental pollution is causing them:

1)They tend to run in families. Thus, if everyone in the area is related to everyone else, and it's one of those unlucky families, then a cluster of birth defects is not unexpected. Clusters happen fairly frequently in populations that are isolated due to geographic distance, or to cultural differences (as happens with the Amish).

2) They're closely tied to dietary deficiencies, particularly a lack of folic acid in the maternal diet. It's one of the reasons why breads and flours are now fortified with folic acid; since that became the standard, the rate of neural tube defects in the population as a whole has dropped dramatically. It's also one of the reasons why it's recommended that pregnant women start prenatal vitamins early, while the brain and spinal cord are forming.

If something was preventing women in the area from getting prenatal care early - like a transportation issue, or a clinic closing - that could influence the rate of these particular defects. So could a lot of women suddenly deciding to try a gluten-free diet, either because of genuine medical issues, or because they've been convinced it's "healthier".

That's the sort of thing a real epidemiologist would examine first, before jumping to conclusions.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

7. The Yakima Firing Center

Last edited Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:40 AM - Edit history (1)

That's my first suspect. Depleted uranium rounds… Yakima is right next to a Military Artillery Range.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:33 AM

18. That is a distinct possibility. Water testing and air quality should be tested.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:59 AM

42. With those kinds of birth defects...

... I think it has allot to do with Hanford and Yakima Firing Range. Helen Caldicott has been saying as much for the past, what, 20 years? The odds of having that many deformed babies at one time (over the last year or two?) is about as high as those identical quintuplets being born to a 43 year old woman, naturally. Thanks for the map, MrScorpio.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:05 AM

8. I wonder if any of these women are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan or

if their spouses are?

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Response to KewlKat (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:42 AM

24. Yep. Can bring all kinds of shit home, just on their clothing.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:13 AM

10. Probably nuclear radiation.

K&R

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #10)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:23 AM

13. Probably? What is your basis for that conclusion?

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Response to Orrex (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:34 AM

19. Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Benton?

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Response to kristopher (Reply #19)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:54 AM

27. That gets us to possibly. But "probably?"

At this point it's idle (and potentially dangerou) speculation. We have almost no information about the circumstances of the pregnancies or births, so it's simply irresponsible to assume causes.

Investigation is certainly imperative, but it's too soon to declare a possible cause to be "probable" without further information.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:39 AM

21. you seem concerned!

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #21)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:10 AM

29. I'm concerned about jumping to conclusions, yes.

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Response to stonecutter357 (Reply #21)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 05:12 PM

52. My thought too.

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:06 AM

28. I'm sure that you use lots of words.

I'm not dismissing radiation as a possible cause, but hanford is about 60 miles east of Yakima, is it not? Before we call radiation the "probable" culprit, it would be responsible to examine other possibilities.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #28)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:21 AM

35. Sixty ''whole'' miles?

Never mind, you don't have to answer.

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #35)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:25 AM

36. **deleted for crappy tone**

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #35)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:51 AM

41. Upon further review, I apologize for my tone in reply 36

I was speaking with insufficient knowledge of the facts.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #28)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:28 AM

38. More like 50 miles by road

and about 40 miles in direct line. That is from center of town, so closer to outskirts and suburbs.

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Response to spike91nz (Reply #38)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:30 AM

39. DAMN YOU GOOGLE MAPS!

Thanks. Substantially closer than it first seemed (to me).

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Response to Orrex (Reply #28)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 09:19 PM

55. Prevailing wind patterns and direction of groundwater flow

might matter more than distance.

I fervently hope the causes of these tragic birth defects can be discovered. But I suspect the causes will be kept from the public "to avoid creating panic."

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Response to Orrex (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 12:13 PM

45. Experience? Maturity? n/t

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 10:23 AM

12. It could be something as simple and heart breaking as poor diet and poor pre-natal care -

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:16 AM

32. Additional information:

Yakima - Yakima's record when it comes to childhood poverty is dismal. A troubling sign that children are bearing the brunt of the state's economic woes. And one group is convinced we haven't seen the worst yet.

Yakima tops the list again for the county with the highest rate for childhood poverty. At 26%, that means more than 18,000 children here are living at or below poverty level. Franklin and Grant counties came in second with 23% each.

A big part of those numbers come from our agricultural employment base. We also have one of the largest hispanic communities in the state. " We know that different ethnic groups are disproportionately more likely to live in poverty," said Kids Count Director, Lori Pfingst.

http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/81284162.html

For me, what stands out is the reference to an "agricultural employment base". Exposure to high concentrations of pesticides and herbicides could be a factor.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:13 AM

30. Rather Frightening

From a Wikepedia article on Depleted Uranium. Article is lengthy, but details the use and history of using this toxic metal. Seems as if it has civilian use also and the one that surprised me is its use as ballast in sailing boats - Christ Awmighty- can one be so stupid as to have their boat loaded with that shit.



"A medical survey, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009" published in July 2010, states that the "Increase in cancer and birth defects…are alarmingly high" and that infant mortality 2009/2010 has reached 13.6%. The group compares the dramatic increase, five years after the actual war 2004, or exposure, with the lymphoma Italian peacekeepers developed after the Balkan wars, and the increased cancer risk in certain parts of Sweden due to the Chernobyl fallout. The origin and time of introduction of the carcinogenic agent causing the genetic stress, the group will address in a separate report."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium

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Response to packman (Reply #30)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 11:39 AM

40. Gawd, I hope not.

My daughter and I were both exposed to DU on our activations. My daughter had a miscarriage after one and gave birth to my granddaughter a year later. My granddaughter has Goldenhar Syndrome, a condition that was suspected of causing higher numbers of cases in the children of veterans of Desert Storm. That I know of, no follow-up studies were ever done and no cases are being followed up on from the second Gulf War.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 12:09 PM

43. Coincidence or Hanford is my 1st thought. I live in western wa. Spina bidifa, could be nutritional

nutritional issue since that affects development of neural tube.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2014, 12:13 PM

46. Might Be Able To Say Told Ya So....Protested this very Hanford Facility in

the mid 70's for the very same reasons being considered today. The Hanford Facility is the largest dump for the nation's nuclear waste, sometimes being shipped from as far away as Bangor Maine.

Not a scientist by any means but an environmental activist from Idaho at the time, this unwarranted glowing trash disposed under the Washington sand leaked then and most surely does now. This problem of this leaking dump is two-fold as the winds of the area are generally of easterly direction blowing clouds of disease into the northern Rockies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and sits above one of North America's largest flowing aquifers to which a large populace tap into. A pristine ecosystem including the Columbia river.

Go figure....stood there them days along the rail tracks in Idaho and at the gates of Hanford freezin my balls off with my little sign, watchin everybody scurrying along to get their BigMac with no concern, wavin at the freak with the sign.
So from me to you I say....have a nice day now....and go blow...and glow

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Tue Feb 18, 2014, 06:20 AM

57. Why are they stunned? Seems inevitable to me.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Sat Feb 22, 2014, 10:19 AM

58. I used to work at a children's hospital in NM

We sometimes had babies with this condition born to moms who had been working on farms in Mexico. The docs would say it was the pesticides.

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Response to jakeXT (Original post)

Sun Feb 23, 2014, 01:08 PM

59. are the women/men

native to the area or are they all - or some - transplants who moved into the region?

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