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Corn Poisoning Moldy
Study Finds Moldy Corn Caused Birth
Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2006
HARLINGEN, Texas---[Mold] Contaminated corn may have caused an increase in
babies born with rare birth defects in the Rio Grande Valley [south Texas
along the Rio Grande River at the Mexican border] in the early 1990s,
according to a new study.
Scientists have been searching more than a decade for the cause of a surge
in babies in the region with neural tube defects, abnormalities of the brain
and spinal cord that arise in the first weeks of pregnancy.
In one south Texas county, there were six cases in six weeks of babies born
with rudimentary or missing brains. Overall, a high rate of neural tube
defects was found among almost all border counties.
According to the February, 2006, issue of the journal Environmental
Health Perspectives, researchers now have a study that
looks at the relationship between tortilla consumption, fumonisin [mold] and
neural tube defects. Laboratory data have pointed to a link, but until now,
researchers have lacked human studies.
The study found that pregnant women who ate 300 to 400 tortillas a month
during the first trimester had more than twice the risk of giving birth to
babies with the defects than did women who ate fewer than 100 tortillas.
Blood samples indicated that the higher the level of fumonisin, the greater
the risk of neural tube defects.
Tortillas are an inexpensive dietary staple along the Texas-Mexico border,
and studies suggest that the average young Mexican-American woman along the
border eats 110 a month.
"I don't know that we can ever go back and definitely say that it was
fumonisin," said Lucina Suarez, director of epidemiology an disease
surveillance for the Texas Department of State Health Services. But given
this and other research, she said, "It certainly looks that way."
Ron Riley, a fumonisin expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said
there appeared to be some connection between tortilla consumption and neural
tube defects, but more study was needed.
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