"The absence of a hypothesis of a possible common cause does not make it possible to hold further investigations." Such is the pronouncement of France's public health agency after investigating a rash of cases of babies born without arms, forearms, or hands. The Guardian reports the focus was on three clusters: three babies born as such in Mouzeil in 2007 and 2008; three born in Guidel between 2011 and 2013; and seven born near the village of Druillat over the 2009 to 2014 period. In that last cluster, all lived within a roughly 10-mile radius of the village in an area where maize and sunflowers are grown. Epidemiologist Emmanuelle Amar heads Remera, described by the Local as a public body that studies malformations; it surveyed the mothers in that last village.
Its researchers found just one commonality: the very rural nature of where the women live. The same holds true for the two other locations, which has led some to suspect pesticides or something agricultural was at play. But the health authority's director says the theory just doesn't hold up: "We have listened to their parents and their grandparents and visited their homes. ... We have not identified a common exposure to the occurrence of these malformations." But contention remains: The health authority says the Druillat-area cases are within what you'd normally expect to see; the Local reports about 150 children are born annually in the country with such birth defects. Remera contends it's 58 times higher. As for the other two clusters, the health authority did consider them to be an "excess of cases." (Read more discoveries stories.)