Mother Agonizes Over Why Baby Born Without Eyes  

MD struggles to solve mystery after cluster of cases surfaces By David Dauphinee London Free Press  

Rodney,Ont.- Kristi Lewinsky looks at her 19-month-old daughter Laurisa every day and sees a terrible mystery.

Laurisa was born without eyes and no one can explain why.

From the day Lewinsky left the hospital with her baby and met with London ophthalmologist Dr. Larry Allen, she has been searching for answers.

Was it something in the family background? Was it environmental, such as exposure to a chemical or drug during pregnancy? Or was it just a freak accident?

Laurisa is one of at least seven babies born without eyes in the last three years in southern Ontario and there is no apparent cause. The other six babies are in Stratford, Southhampton, Ajax, Kitchener and two in Toronto.

"All I know is there are seven babies without eyes. Something's going on, something needs to be done about it," says Lewinsky, who lives in Rodney, near London, Ont.

Allen has seen the phenomenon known as anopthalmia(no eyes) and microphthalmia(small eyes) sporadically over the years. But the recent incidents are unusual as they occurred over a short period of time and all within southern Ontario.

Allen is treating all the children through the London Health Sciences Centre. "When I've talked to people across the country,I hardly ever have anybody run into this problem at all," he said. "We see more of that problem in this area than we do throughout Canada."

Some parents wonder if the defects are linked to medication. Another suspicion is that exposure to pesticides caused the problem.

Benomyl, a DuPont-made ingredient in several fungicides in Canada, has already been shown in animal studies to induce the birth defect, but at doses 1,000 times higher than the expected dose received by farm workers handling the pesticide, the British Medical Journal has reported.

Still, Lewinsky said a common thread among the mothers is that they all lived near apple orchards or in rural areas where there may have been chemical use during their pregnancies.

Support groups say anopthalmia may result from genetic mutations, sporadic genetic mutations, chromosome abnormalities, environmental reasons or other unknown causes. Some sources estimate the defect appears in about one in 10,000 births.

For Lewinsky, there are so many unanswered questions.  "It is kind of scary. I will have another child. This won't stop me but what should I do? It should be a happy time, but when it happens to you, you think about it the next time."

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