The Politician who studied CHD

Todd Caminish is a Democratic Candidate for the Arizona State Senate.

But in his non-political job, Todd is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. And right now, he’s part of a team that is studying the connection between Arsenic and Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). The research is being conducted as part of the University of Arizona’s Superfund Research Program.

But why Superfund? Isn’t that the federal program designed for hazardous substance cleanup? The Superfund programs becomes involved because of Arizona’s mining history. Arizona’s been the home to lots of mining operations throughout the years. Many times, dangerous substances were used to separate the valuable ore from the regular rock. The end of the process resulted in ore that was being mined and the mine tailings – in other words, everything else. All that rock was discarded… and most of it was contaminated.

As a result, there are 350,000 acres of mine tailings in Arizona. A lot of mining companies used Arsenic as part of the separation process, and as a result, a lot of the mine tailings contain dangerous levels of Arsenic.  Some of the chemical seeps into the ground water; while some of it dries to a fine powder that is easily carried on the wind and breathed by anything with a lung.And research is showing that among other things, Arsenic can affect the cellular “triggers” that guide heart development.

Is there a connection? What does the statistics say? Each year, the Arizona Department of Health Services files the Arizona Birth Defects Monitoring Program Report. In the 1996  edition of the Report, (Read it by CLICKING HERE) Arizona reported 133 Cardiac Congenital Anomalies per 10,000 Live Births and Fetal Deaths. (See chart on page 9) How does that compare to the United States national average? According to the March of Dimes, the average number of babies born with a heart defect in the United States is 1 per every 125 births, or 8 in 1000. Arizona’s number works out to 13.3 children affected out of every 1000. The March of Dimes website doesn’t list information concerning CHD Fetal Deaths, but moving from 8 per 1000 to 13.3 per 1000 is a huge jump.Thats 1 CHD Birth per 75 total births, almost as high as the state of Wisconsin.

Bottom Line: Arizona has a Heart Defect problem, and it very well could be caused by the Arsenic left over from old mines.

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One Response to “The Politician who studied CHD”

  1. Stefenie Says:

    This was a very interesting post for many reasons Steve. I have read articles where their is a concern that areas hit with large HLHS cases in rural areas might be related to Atrazine use on fields. I haven’t heard of the Arsenic concern. It will be interesting to see what their research turns up.

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