Cluster of fatal birth defects in Brazos County

POSTED: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 5:43pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:54am

BRYAN -- State health officials and Texas A &M are investigating a cluster of birth defects in the Bryan-College Station area. No reason for the defects has been given, but community members wonder if it has anything to do with a fire at a Bryan chemical warehouse.

Five babies were diagnosed with Trisomy 18 in Brazos County since August 2009.

In July 2009, thousands were evacuated when a fertilizer warehouse owned by El Dorado Chemical caught fire.

One of the patient's doctors, Laura Taplin, says that time frame is unusual.

"In a short amount of time, we've had five babies. So of course, it's an appropriate question to ask is there something that resulted in such a high population of babies to have this," said Dr. Taplin.

However, Dr. Taplin and researches say it's important to not make any assumptions about why the babies were born with Trisomy 18.

Now researchers are trying to figure out if something in the environment caused the high numbers. Department of State Health Services' Carrie Williams says community members have expressed concern about whether the fire at El Dorado Chemical Company has anything to do with it.

Vice President of  El Dorado Chemical, John Carver, spoke with Fox 44. He wouldn't speak on cameral, but says they are doing a study of their own. He also says these chemicals are used everyday by farmers in fertilizers.

Christina Fazzino's lives beside the plant, and says she remembers the fire well.

"It was bad. The smell, people were sick, I know we were sick bad," said Fazzino.

Her granddaughter was born right after the fire, and Fazzino says it's frightening to even think of the possibility of chemicals linked to a deadly birth defect.

"It's sad that something in our air can actually make our babies sick and our grand babies sick," said Fazzino.

Four of the parents had to bury their babies before their first birthday. Emotional odds, even for Dr. Taplin who broke into tears talking about her ten month old patient fighting for their life.

"It's one of the hardest pills to swallow, especially as a pediatrician, because you don't expect your kids to die," said Dr. Taplin.

The Department of State Health Services says they are looking at several environmental factors that could bring on Trisomy 18. They should have more answers at the end of this year.

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