Appearing before the Kings County Board of Supervisors and a community forum in Kettleman City, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced preliminary findings
in English and Spanish
of its review of birth defects in Kettleman City in 2007 and 2008 and vowed to continue investigating the matter.
The following is a summary of the findings:
• There were no patterns among cases to suggest there was a common underlying cause for the birth defects in Kettleman City.
• The overall birth defects rate in Kettleman City for the years 1987 - 2007 was not higher than expected.
• Continued monitoring of births in Kettleman City will provide further information that will be reported to the residents and public.
“Our initial investigation of births between 1987 and 2008 showed no patterns to suggest there was a common underlying cause for the birth defects in Kettleman City," said Kevin Reilly, chief deputy director of CDPH. “We will continue to follow up with the five cases in 2007 and 2008 and diligently keep the people of the area informed of the investigation process and our findings."
Department officials indicated that while the number of birth defects identified in Kettleman City over time is not unusual, they will continue to investigate the five reported birth defects linked to Kettleman City by interviewing family members, and continuing ongoing monitoring.
“We are here today to speak with the families and the community about the next steps,” said Reilly, “which include family interviews and working with the California Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate possible risk factors for birth defects.
“To this point, our investigation has covered birth defect rates over a 22-year period, a thorough review of medical records of all children born with suspected birth defects and a comparison of that information to neighboring towns, the county and the region.”
The CDPH investigation examined data on birth defects from 1987 to 2008. Over a 15-month period ending in late 2008, five babies were born with birth defects in Kettleman City. Four of the Kettleman City babies were born in 2008, which is one more birth defect case beyond what would be statistically expected for any given year.
The CDPH report explains, however, because the community’s population and the number of reported birth defects are small, it is unable to draw absolute scientific conclusions from one year of data. Each of the birth defects reported in 2008 was different from the others, which suggests that there may not be a common cause.
From 1987 to 2008, there was an average 1.09 birth defects for every 100 live births and fetal deaths in Kettleman City. In Avenal, the rate was 0.95, and in Kings County overall the rate was 0.96. In the five-county region – not including 2008 – the rate was 0.94, for the period from 1987 to 2007 (Complete data for the region for 2008 is not yet available).
When exploring questions about birth defects and the environment, the initial steps include identifying the birth defect rates in the community, county and region and comparing them to other local community, county and regional information.
On average, one of every 33 babies is born with some sort of a birth defect. In most cases, the specific cause of a birth defect cannot be determined. In 1982, California passed a law establishing the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program
to gather information about birth defects.