State officials begin interviews in birth defect mystery

SEATTLE (AP) — State health officials are interviewing women who lost babies to a fatal birth defect that has been occurring in unusual numbers in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties.

The Seattle Times says that since Jan. 1, investigators have talked to 10 mothers who have carried babies with anencephaly. The rare defect occurs when the neural tube fails to close properly, causing fatal deformities in the brain and skull.

Officials are hoping to find information about living and working conditions, health habits, environmental risks and other factors that could be responsible.

Some critics, however, worry the state moved too slowly, even as cases continue to rise.

Between January 2010 to October 2014, 38 cases were reported in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties, much higher than the national rate.