From Wisconsin State Journal:

Many of Dr. Susan Davidson’s patients whose babies have gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines grow outside of the body, come from small, agricultural towns.

Davidson, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at St. Mary’s Hospital, said she’s seeing more pregnancies involving gastroschisis than she would expect, based on historic estimates in other states. Many involve women from rural areas.

Davidson wonders if the cases are linked to atrazine, an herbicide used on corn crops in Wisconsin and elsewhere. “This could be the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

She has asked the state to investigate.

State health officials say their data show no alarming trends, but they acknowledge shortcomings in how Wisconsin tracks birth defects. Evaluating a tie between gastroschisis and atrazine — or other possible causes of the defect — would be expensive, they say.

“You’d have to survey the mothers of the children,” said Dr. Murray Katcher, chief medical officer for community health promotion at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. “The odds of finding a connection are very small.”

But Davidson is not alone in her suspicion. Dr. Kathy Stewart, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at Meriter Hospital, said she’s also seeing what she considers an unusual number of gastroschisis cases.

“I think Susan is onto something with it being environmental,” Stewart said.

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Davidson said she wants to further study gastroschisis in Wisconsin.

“It’s clearly something to be vigilant about,” she said.