A weird medical phenomenon has been striking France. Clusters of babies in rural France have been born missing hands, forearms or arms. Thirteen children have been born between 2007-2017 in rural areas of France missing these limbs. Despite this anomaly, French doctors have not been able to determine a cause for the birth defects and have announced that they will stop investigating the cause.
French public health officials initially indicated that the deformities were “probably down to chance”. However, doctors at a research organization determined that the likelihood of the deformities was more than coincidental. The doctors stated that the chance of occurrence was “more than infinitesimal” and demanded a full investigation.
“These malformations are very rare, but also very specific. There is something, some product, that is cutting the limbs at the time the embryo is developing. We must search for it. We must ask ourselves, what could be capable of halting this development and find it,” said Emmanuelle Amar, an epidemiologist and director of the research group Remera. He indicated that further research is necessary,
Officials at the research group believe the localized clusters of limb malformation at birth may be linked to pesticides and described the lack of action surrounding the occurrence as a “health scandal.”
Despite the concern, Amar did warn against making assumptions. She stated that while the anomalies were likely “medical or environmental”, more investigation is necessary. “We have to have a social conscience. These are future children, future generations we are talking about, but they are also individual human dramas,” she added.
The initial phenomenon was originally reported occurring near village of Druillat in the Ain department of eastern France. Between 2009 and 2014, seven babies were born without arms, forearms, or hands. All of the children lived within a tight radius of the village where sunflowers were cultivated. Three years later, three more children were reported with similar birth defects in the town of Mouzeil in the Loire-Atlantique department of western France. The children were born between 2007 and 2008. In 2015, three more children were reported as having the same birth defects in the town of Guidel in Brittany. Those births occurred between 2011 and 2013.
According to Santé Publique France, a public health authority, there are approximately 150 babies a year in total born with similar disfigurements in France.
The rural location of the births is the only commonality shared.
“It is believed that this revolved around agriculture, We are definitely facing an excess of cases. We have the scientific and moral obligation to go further,” Amar said.
However, Santé Publique France said “the absence of a hypothesis of a possible common cause does not make it possible to hold further investigations”.
This is not the first time that global birth defects have been linked to toxic chemicals. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, thousands of babies were born with missing limbs. The birth defects were linked to the drug thalidomide, which was used to treat nausea in pregnant women, which was actually used to treat nausea in pregnant women. The drug was banned in the 1960’s.
Regardless of the uncertainty of the scientific community surrounding the origin of these French birth defects, more investigation and research is absolutely needed.