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Radial Aplasia: Birth Defect


Radial Aplasia is a birth defect that causes severe deformities in the arms and hands - this disorder is normally seen in cows and is known as "crooked calf disease". A recent case study shows that perhaps pesticides are to blame for the disorder appearing in humans.


In September 1980, a baby boy born in the mountainous back-country of northwestern California (Trinity County) was brought to the UC Medical Center in Sacramento with severe bone deformities in his arms and hands, including a partial absence of forearm bones (radial aplasia) and absent thumbs.

Extensive medical histories and genetic analyses of his parents indicated that the probable cause was environmental rather than hereditary.

His mother feared that somehow exposure to herbicide spraying was responsible. Association of forest spraying and a reportedly high incidence of birth defects in northwestern California and southern Oregon has been highly publicized in recent years and has become controversial.

Indeed, it appears likely that this herbicide had been applied to a forested ridge several miles distant from the mother's home more than a year before the child's conception.

The mother provided the evidence that her goats also gave birth to kids stillborn or with deformed legs during and after the period of her pregnancy, and that puppies born to a dog fed the goat's milk during pregnancy were likewise deformed.

Local goat's milk has become a common food item in the area, and the child's mother drank it regularly herself throughout pregnancy.

A thorough survey of nearby areas where the goats had regularly browsed at the time of the mother's early pregnancy showed that a perennial lupine, identified as the widely distributed Lupinus latifolius, often formed the principal low-growing forage as well as wild tobacco (Nicotiana), poison hemlock (Conium), and skunk cabbage (Veratrum).

- From a University of Idaho study on carcinogens & birth defects

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