Causes for leukemia are causes for concern
February 24, 2003
Leukemia clusters are cropping up around us. The latest being down the road in Sacramento County.
There is no reason to suspect anything like this will come to light on the South Shore. But that does not make the plight of the victims any less real.
Hardly a week goes by that the Fallon epidemic is not written about. This is good. Diligence by concerned residents and the papers that represent these areas have spurred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to beef-up its investigation into the matter.
The National Institutes of Health is also taking an interest. Scientists are studying the possible link between tungsten and cancer.
A high level of tungsten is what links the California and Nevada cases to one in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Tungsten is a naturally occurring metal used in ammunition and in hardening tools. It is now being found in trees in these three states.
Research shows that in the three towns considered to have leukemia clusters that there is more tungsten in new wood than in old. What scientists want to know is if there is more tungsten out there that can get into trees — meaning it could be in groundwater, soil and the air — or do trees pass it among themselves via their roots.
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The Sacramento Bee commissioned a study that found one tree having a 446 percent increase in tungsten in a 12-year period.
Clearly something is causing tungsten in these three small towns to increase to alarming levels. Hopefully, the alarm bells have been rung and no one else will have to die.
There have been no direct links between tungsten and leukemia. Nonetheless, the CDC is not leaving anything to chance. What the metal does to humans is being analyzed. Data will be collected from other Nevada towns to compare it to information gathered in Fallon.
Tungsten has never been considered a contaminant of the environment. However, it is showing up in groundwater — and many in Fallon use well water.
Fallon statistics prove the most alarming. A report shows that the level of tungsten in Fallon residents is 13 times higher than the national average.
Three children have died, 13 others diagnosed with leukemia in a four-year span. According the National Cancer Institute, in this town of 8,000 there should only be one case of childhood leukemia diagnosed every three years.
California is not officially labeling the Calvine-Florin area a leukemia cluster, saying the increase in cases is normal based on population growth. It is hard to convince the two adults and four children who have the disease that something out of the ordinary is not happening.