1980 – 1986: Carnarvon Birth Defects

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In 1988 the Health Department investigated a cluster of birth defects in Carnarvon, a banana growing town north of Perth. The report noted that a cluster of neural tube defects in children born between 1980 and 1986 occurred at a rate nearly three and a half times the state average and concluded:  The offspring of parents working on the plantations had a very small and statistically non-significant increase in the risk of birth defects, which may simply be a chance finding. There was no further evidence to suggest a causal relationship.

The report also reviewed earlier birth defect studies in Yarram, Edenhope, the Latrobe Valley, Coffs Harbour and rural Western Australia and concluded that evidence identifying pesticides as causative agents was ‘scanty’. While the authors stated that ‘many studies were based on small numbers and none measured exposure to specific chemicals in individual parents’, they still concluded, without qualification, that there was ‘no strong or consistent evidence… in the published literature to support an association of birth defects and agricultural chemicals’. Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. p151/2 1994 Kate Short.