St. Mary's Law Journal


Kelly L. Reblin


Along the 868-mile Texas-Mexico border thousands of young women live in fear as deadly birth defects with unknown causes threaten the lives of their unborn children. A total of ninety cases of the birth defect anencephaly, meaning the fetus has no brain, were reported in the fourteen Texas border counties between 1986 and 1991. The cause of these birth defects has yet to be determined officially; yet, researchers and residents along the Texas-Mexico border blame poor environmental conditions caused by the maquiladora industry and inadequate sewage facilities. The Texas Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control investigated the outbreak and recommended implementation of a state-wide birth defects surveillance system. In 1993, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Birth Defects Act. Progress in determining why there is an increasing number of children afflicted with birth defects along the border has been slow. In the meantime, more women along the border experience the tragedy of giving birth to children without a brain. Unfortunately, no simple solution exists to the environmental tragedy which is blamed for the cluster of neural tube defects along the Texas-Mexico border. The large multinational corporations which operate the maquiladora industry argue they have brought an influx of jobs, resources, technology, and capital into an area of North American traditionally ignored. To alleviate the suffering of those living in the border communities, cooperation between the governments of Mexico and United States, the maquiladora industry and border area resident is necessary. Through the implementation of a toxic pollution warning system, the bilateral research commission, and fines to punish maquiladoras, steps can be taken by all parties to reduce pollution in the border area. And perhaps the recurrence of clusters of neural tube defects in border communities can be eliminated.


St. Mary's University School of Law