CDPHE: “Birth anomalies not linked to common cause”

Press Release from CDPHE

Birth anomalies not linked to common cause, investigation concludes

DENVER – An investigation by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment of 22 reported anomalies in unborn children in Garfield County found no common underlying cause.

Dr. Larry Wolk, department executive director and chief medical officer, said, “Our investigation looked at each reported case and concluded they are not linked to any common risk factors.”

Department epidemiologists looked at more than a dozen factors including each mother’s place of conception and current address; drinking water source (municipal and well); proximity to active oil and gas wells; proximity to each other; the age, health, and family history of the mothers; the mother’s use of medications, supplements, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and other substances; each mother’s prior pregnancies and deliveries; and ethnicity. While there were different risk factors identified for individual cases, no pattern emerged to suggest a common risk factor for the reported anomalies.

The cases, reported by Women’s Health and A Woman’s Place – two clinics located in Glenwood Springs, were from mothers with residences spread over a wide geographic area, not isolated in any single community. The department was asked to investigate due to the number of prenatal ultrasounds showing very rare congenital anomalies reported in late 2013.

The department’s birth defects registry mainly tracks birth defects after children are born. The study was unique in that it looked at unborn children with birth defects detected by ultrasound early in pregnancy. Therefore, a number of additional factors should be considered, including the limitations of the ultrasound as a diagnostic tool, observer variability, and the timing of the ultrasound. It is possible one of these variables may have accounted for an impression that there is a higher number of anomalies. In addition, because prenatal ultrasounds are not typically monitored by the state, there is no way to know if these cases represent a higher number than normal.

In addition, there was no single or common type of birth anomaly reported. Types of anomalies varied and included cardiac anomalies, commonly diagnosed autosomal trisomies, other suspected chromosomal anomalies and molar pregnancies.

Dr. Wolk said, “There is no state or federal registry of pre-birth anomalies that would show whether the cases referred to the department are greater or less than the number of cases occurring in the general population. While some may have expected the investigation would identify one or two risk factors that link these cases, no such link was found. It is natural to look at even a single birth anomaly and ask why. But sadly, birth anomalies do occur.”

The full report can be found under the Hot Topics section of the department’s webpage, click on “Glenwood Springs Prenatal Report.”

**********

Peggy Tibbetts comments:  What’s the rush? This is so disappointing that the CDPHE is concluding such an important investigation in a matter of weeks. It seems to me that they should at least keep the investigation open to see if the trend continues. I had hoped for a much longer investigation. I can almost hear the broom’s bristles sweeping this under the rug.

Glenwood Post Independent: Investigation finds no common factor in Garfield County birth defects

… Industry critic Peggy Tibbetts of Silt, who writes about oil and gas impacts on her blog, From The Styx, said the state health study seemed rushed.

“They just started looking at this, what, five or six weeks ago? And they’ve already wrapped it up?,” Tibbetts said. “It just feels like it was hurried, and designed to maybe come to a pre-ordained conclusion.

“It’s just puzzling to me that they wouldn’t want to do a longer, more in-depth study,” she said, pointing to a recent University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health study that found a possible link between drilling chemicals and fetal problems.

“As someone who lives here, I would just like to see a longer study done,” Tibbetts said …

I know. You’re all going “WTF? Didn’t she say anything about her family’s test results?”

Yes. In fact the last line was more like, I would like to see a longer study done especially in light of my family’s recent blood and urine analysis that revealed VOCs metabolizing in our bodies. This is in addition to birth defects and stillborns, plus the county’s air quality monitoring data that shows an increase in benzene. Something is definitely going on here with our air quality and the state needs to get in here and find out what it is.

I’ll let Bob Arrington take it from here because I think he’s on the right track and my family agrees with him, as do many of us who have been paying attention to the degradation in our air quality.

Bob Arrington comments:

“With a catch-all dismissal of sources (if the list is complete) CDPHE closes the case by questioning the method of detection. It would be important to find out if mothers spent any time east of Parachute after Dec. 18, 2012 to Jan. 3, 2013, resulting in birth periods of late 2013. This is the time 40,000 gallons of toxic hydrocarbons were released into the atmosphere. With the actual ebb and flow of air patterns (primarily southwest to northeast and northeast to south west each day- – back and forth across the Colorado River and moving generally up the river valleys), these hydrocarbons could spend weeks washing over the county towns and adjoining towns. There were the several weeks, from January to April, of evaporation of the 10,000 gallon ground spill liquids that went uncollected adding to the soup.

“8.33 lbs/gal for water, then ~ range from 3#/gal for ethane to 6.3#/gal for gasoline, so using an average of 4.6#/gal. for a mixture average.

“4.6#/gal x 40,000 gallons is about 184,000 lbs. or 92 tons of hydrocarbons without the additional amount from ground spill.

“This singular event putting in the Colorado River Valley atmosphere (and the majority of Valley View population ranging from Parachute to Eagle-Aspen) in exposure from Dec.18, 2012 to April, 2013 just might be the all pervasive common cause that escaped notice. It wasn’t listed as being looked at.

Denver PostColorado finds no link to drilling in Garfield County fetal problems

Bob Arrington, a member of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said he still believes the fetal anomalies could have been caused by a large leak of hydrocarbons near Parachute at the end of 2012 and into early 2013. An estimated 10,000 gallons of fluids leaked into the ground and 40,000 gallons evaporated into the air.

“This was significant but it was overlooked in the study. I don’t think they’ve answered the important question about this,” Arrington said.

And here’s Larry Wolk sounding as if he works for COGA:

“People have to be careful about making assumptions,” Wolk said. “This study was not about oil and gas causing birth anomalies.”

I mean this is the executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Doesn’t exactly sound like he’s curious about or even interested in public health.

Sunday morning 3/30/14 -- Looking east from West Rifle -- Click to enlarge [Photo by Ema Tibbetts]

Sunday morning 3/30/14 — Looking east from West Rifle — Click to enlarge [Photo by Ema Tibbetts]

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4 Comments on “CDPHE: “Birth anomalies not linked to common cause””

  1. Emily Tracy Says:

    Of course there should be a much more comprehensive epidemiological study done in Western Garfield County, to really look at possible connections to health issues for all residents as related to geography and air pollution events. I found it interesting that, though the birth defects analysis added in factors such as smoking and drug use, it did NOT add in places of employment for the pregnant women, their spouses, or others in their households. The birth defects analysis had a fairly narrow focus, and my non-scientific guess is that it would not have resulted in anything more illuminating than it did. Raises far more questions than it answers. Emily Tracy, Breckenridge

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    I agree Emily. And comprehensive is the right word. As I mentioned there are so many different factors to consider. We can’t continue to isolate each factor and never consider the bigger picture. I’m not a doctor or a medical researcher but the people I’m talking to in the medical community are intellectually curious about what’s going on here from a public health standpoint. They don’t have an agenda against the oil & gas industry. They recognize patterns in health problems. They’re interested in cause and effect.

    Why are the same hydrocarbons in the PC spill metabolizing inside Ema, Hailey and my bodies?

  3. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Here is an opportunity for people living in the gas patch to assist medical researchers in understanding the human health effects of being constantly exposed to HAPs (hazardous air pollutants) contained in the large amounts of diesel fuel used in fracking.

    This study is fully funded. It’s a simple blood draw only. Your medical history and identity will be kept confidential. All test subjects are numbered, not named.
    https://fromthestyx.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/human-test-subjects-wanted/

    Volunteer. Please.
    peggyt@siltnet.net

    Thank you to those who have volunteered so far.

  4. Diane Says:

    Just an FYI if you didn’t see this article published in the DP.

    http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_25719742/scientists-flying-over-colorado-oil-boom-find-worse

    I saw your blog when I went to Gov. Hickenloppers FB page. I live in Weld County and I’m against fracking, there’s so much information out there showing the impact on our environment and health…big oil and gas and money is driving this boom with no regard for what it will leave behind or most important to our health.
    God bless you for all the work your are doing!

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