Some two dozen infants in rural areas of France have been born missing arms and hands since 2000, and now public health officials in that country have launched an investigation to uncover the cause of the defects.
Recently, 11 new cases of such birth defects occurring in infants born in Ain, near the Swiss border, were identified, prompting the investigation, the Guardian reports. Previously, seven cases had been identified, but officials said that those did not represent an abnormally high number. Additional cases have occurred in Morbihan (four) and Loire-Atlantique (three), per Reuters.
All of the cases occurred in births between 2000 and 2014, according to reports.
Due to the occurrences of defects being clustered in agricultural areas, some are concerned that pesticides are the cause.
“I want to know. I think all of France wants to know,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told local TV, per Reuters. “It could be an environmental factor. Maybe it is due to what these women ate, drank, or breathed in.”
Emmanuelle Amar, director of a group that has documented the cases, says that genetic, drug, or alcohol causes have been ruled out.
“These malformations are very rare, but also very specific,” he says.
It’s not just humans that have been affected. There are reports of chickens and calves being born with defects, as well. Results of the investigation are expected by June.
(A jury found that his cancer was caused by an herbicide.)
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