Rate of birth defects higher in some southeastern NC counties

DHHS says no conclusion can be drawn regarding exposure to PFAS in drinking water

Rate of birth defects higher in some southeastern NC counties

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - A North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services review found the rate of some birth defects was higher in counties in the Cape Fear Region compared to the rest of the state.

From 2003-14, the DHHS analyzed four categories of birth defects in Bladen, Brunswick, Cumberland, New Hanover and Pender counties using data from the NC Birth Defects Monitoring Program. The analysis was done to address concerns about GenX and other PFAS in drinking water.

Different types of brain defects were elevated in different counties compared to statewide numbers. Brain reduction defect prevalence was higher in Bladen, Brunswick and Cumberland counties, and microcephaly and hydrocephaly were more prevalent in New Hanover County.

"For reasons that are not well understood, the prevalence of brain anomalies varied substantially across North Carolina and higher prevalence was not limited to the lower Cape Fear region," the DHHS said in a news release.

National data is not available for comparison.

No conclusion regarding links between exposure to PFAS and birth defects can be drawn from this analysis, the DHHS said, and the Birth Defects Monitoring Program doesn't routinely collect information about specific exposures.

However, brain and spinal cord defects, facial clefts, heart defects and skeletal defects were chosen for this analysis because they have been included in studies of PFAS exposure or because associations with PFAS have been suggested in studies of laboratory animals. No birth defects have been definitively linked to PFAS exposure in humans.

Plans are being developed to examine the occurrence of brain anomalies across North Carolina and geographic variations in the occurrence of birth defects throughout the state will continue to be monitored.

To view the full report, click here.

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