Birth Defect Concerns

Birth defects in Nebraska are on the rise

Birth defects in Nebraska are on the rise, and within the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) evidence indicates that these health implications are increasing at a faster rate than the rest of the state.  According to a research study that Dr. Jesse Bell, University of Nebraska Medical Center professor of health and environment discussed, birth defects, on a national scale, occur in 3.3 percent of all live births, and Nebraska exceeds the national average with 5.8 percent. He stated “The counties with higher birth defects also have a greater prevalence of agrichemicals in the water.” This raises concerns about a possible connection.

Bell added, “We want to further educate the public about the relationship between birth defects and the exposure to agrichemicals as we enhance monitoring efforts and continue our research. We see agriculture as part of the solution and want to develop partnerships between the ag community and public health community to help address these issues for a safer Nebraska.”

“I was the parent of a severely handicapped child.  Blue-baby syndrome can occur during pregnancy or during the first 6 months of a baby’s life.  It can cause developmental problems that could be with that child forever.  The lifetime of challenges that come with raising a child with disabilities can be overwhelming,” said, Dave Kathol of Norfolk. 

“Imagine how quickly your life could change.  Would you be prepared to handle it, financially and emotionally?”

Birth Defect Statistics

  • National rate: Birth defects affect about 3.3% of all live births
  • Nebraska rate 2005-2014:  5.8%
  • 600-1200 reported birth defect cases per year
    • Cardiovascular (500+)
    • Central nervous system (100+)
    • Gastrointestinal (250+)
    • Genitourinary (550+)
    • Musculoskeletal (250+)

“Agrichemical Mixtures in Drinking Water and Health Outcomes in Nebraska” Research presented by Martha Rhoades, PhD – 2019 Nebraska Water Conference

New-Aaron, Moses; Meza, Jane L.; Shea, Patrick J.; and Rhoades, Martha, “Birth outcomes and water: A multidisciplinary study” (2018). Posters and Presentations: College of Public Health. 11.

Brender JD, Weyer PJ. Agricultural Compounds in Water and Birth Defects. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2016 Jun;3(2):144-52. doi: 10.1007/s40572-016-0085-0. PMID: 27007730.

Ward, Mary H et al. “Drinking Water Nitrate and Human Health: An Updated Review.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 15,7 1557. 23 Jul. 2018, doi:10.3390/ijerph15071557

Developmental abnormalities in chicken embryos exposed to N-nitrosoatrazine Joshi N, Rhoades MG, Bennett GD, Wells SM, Mirvish SS, Breitbach MJ, Shea PJ. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A. 2013: 76(17) 1015-1022.