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Daily News Archive
From February 12, 2001

Cancer Cluster Hits Small Nevada Town, Arsenic Suspected

Fallon, Nevada, a small farming and military community 60 miles east of Reno, has been stricken with 11 cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia since 1997. Although this type of leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer, it is still rare, with 2,000 cases diagnosed each year. What concerns this community of only 8,300 residents, is that last year, 8 of the 2,000 cases were children in their community.

According to a story by the Associated Press (AP), the water in Fallon has arsenic levels 10 times the federal standard. Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical, but is very toxic to humans. It's often used as an insecticide or weed killer, but is found naturally in Fallon's soil.

The American Cancer Society reports that there have been studies of acute lymphocytic leukemia and its relation to pesticides and chemical exposures to parents, but claims the studies are still inconclusive. Others believe there may be a link between the cluster and nuclear weapons, tested near the town in the 1950's.

According to AP, Nevada has asked for help from the CDC, the National Cancer Institute and outside epidemiologists. Legislative hearings and town meetings are planned. Senator Harry Reid (D) is sending top staffers from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to investigate.