State: No link to drilling and rash of prenatal anomalies in Garfield County

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DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health said Friday there were no common underlying causes to 22 reported anomalies in unborn children in Garfield County late last year.

“Our investigation looked at each reported case and concluded they are not linked to any common risk factors,” said Dr. Larry Wold, the department executive director and chief medical officer.

RELATED: Read the full report

Epidemiologists looked at more than two dozen factors in the anomalies, which included cardiac and chromosomal deformities, that were reported by two clinics in Glenwood Springs in prenatal ultrasounds, including proximity to active oil and gas wells and drinking water sources. Garfield County has the second-most oil and gas wells in the state, after Weld County.

“While there were different risk factors identified for individual cases, no pattern emerged to suggest a common risk factor for the reported anomalies,” the report said.

The state’s birth defects registry mainly tracks defects after children are born, making this study of looking at unborn children unique.

“A number of additional factors should be considered, including the limitations of the ultrasound as a diagnostic tool, observer variability, and the timing of the ultrasound,” the state said in a release. “It is possible one of these variables may have accounted for an impression that there is a higher number of anomalies. In addition, because prenatal ultrasounds are not typically monitored by the state, there is no way to know if these cases represent a higher number than normal.”

Added Wolk: “There is no state or federal registry of pre-birth anomalies that would show whether the cases referred to the department are greater or less than the number of cases occurring in the general population. While some may have expected the investigation would identify one or two risk factors that link these cases, no such link was found. It is natural to look at even a single birth anomaly and ask why. But sadly, birth anomalies do occur.”