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Texas Soil May Contain Teratogens

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8-APR-1997 20:51 Doctors suspect toxins in birth defects
Copyright 1997 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas, April 8 (UPI) -- Medical scientists say estrogen- like chemicals linked to birth defects in other studies are present in high quantities in the soil of south Texas counties with high rates of neural birth defects.

Researchers from Texas A&M University released the results Tuesday at a forum that brought together researchers studying the problem of the neural tube defect called anencephaly.

Anencephalic babies are born with severely under-developed brains, sometimes with no brains at all.

The south Texas birth defects first gained widespread attention in 1991, when health authorities in Brownsville reported six anencephalic births in six weeks -- about three times the total expected over a one- year period.

A&M toxicologist K.C. Donnelly told a forum sponsored by the Texas Department of Public Health that the A&M team collected hundreds of soil and water samples over the past year near the border cities of Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen. Preliminary analysis shows they have about 10 times the level of estrogen-like pesticides and chemicals found in samples taken a few hundred miles away near Corpus Christi, where health officials do not report abnormal levels of anencephalic births.

The estrogen-like chemicals -- bis-phenol-A and nonyl phenol -- have been linked by other researchers to similar birth defects.

A&M epidemiologist Stuart Shalat says, "The fact that 100 percent of the soil samples contained manmade estrogenic compounds is of concern, and we're starting some preliminary tests to see if these compounds are actually biologically active."

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