SAN JOAQUIN: Chosen For Birth Defect Study
The San Joaquin Valley, CA, counties of Kern, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare "will be asked to participate in a first-of-its-kind, nationwide study of birth defects" over the next four years, the Bakersfield Californian reports. Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study of 29 birth defects will be "one of the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted on birth-defect risks and how to minimize them." As many as 2,400 mothers in California and 16,000 mothers nationwide will be recruited to participate in a one-hour telephone interview that will quiz them on their "pregnancy history, medications, diet, work, hobbies and lifestyle." Researchers might also contact their doctors. Jackie Wynne of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program said, "People think birth defects can't be prevented, that they're genetically sealed. We think the results of this study will lead us to some other conclusions."
According to the monitoring program, birth defects "are the leading cause of infant mortality." And according to statistics published by the Medical Board of California, "some 12,500 babies -- 2 to 3% -- are born with a 'medically significant' birth defect each year" in California. The San Joaquin area was reportedly chosen "because it has the right number of people in a tightly contained area"; the area does not have "an extraordinarily high birth defect rate," according to Wynne. Nationally, "one in three babies who dies has a birth defect. Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey are other states involved in the study. The Californian reports that the first analysis of the study results "will be published in 2002" (Bedell, 5/12).