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Another possible Fallon leukemia case

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – An unconfirmed report of a 15th case of childhood leukemia involving a small farming and Navy town in northern Nevada was disclosed Thursday by state health officials.

The state Health Division said Fallon residents who are relatives of a child living outside Nevada reported the child was diagnosed with leukemia, but there’s no medical confirmation.

Dr. Randall Todd, the state epidemiologist, said the Health Division is seeking more information but hasn’t been able to determine whether the child fits into the known group of victims.



The confirmed victims include a girl with acute myelogenous leukemia or AML, a less commonly diagnosed leukemia in children; and 13 other cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, the most common.

ALL destroys bone marrow. While its cause is unknown, suspected triggers include radiation exposure, electromagnetic fields or volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, solvents and fossil fuels. Arsenic has not been linked to acute lymphocytic leukemia. AML is similar, although a different class of white blood cells are affected.




The latest development follows complaints by a group of independent doctors about the state’s handling of the probe into the leukemia cases linked to the Fallon area.

The group, led by Dr. Alan Levin of Incline Village, says the state probe isn’t progressing fast enough and that DNA testing could quickly help narrow the cause.

Levin, who investigated a Woburn, Mass., leukemia cluster in 1986 on which the book and movie, ”A Civil Action,” was based, said military jet fuel used at the Fallon Naval Air Station should be investigated immediately as a potential cause.

Navy officials have repeatedly said the jet fuel is not to blame for the outbreak.

In addition to military fuels, other possible theories for the cases have included viruses caused by the movement of large numbers of people in and out of Fallon; high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water; and pesticides or fungicides used on area farms.

Todd has said DNA analysis of patients’ blood will be a part of the probe, but he questioned Levin’s claims that it would lead to the cause.

Preliminary tests show no traces of jet fuel in Fallon’s well and tap water, but a search for environmental triggers will continue, he added.

The Health Division is working with federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and with numerous medical experts and Nevada’s congressional delegation.


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