EPA to investigate birth defects in Kettleman City

January 26, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to investigate a cluster of facial birth defects and other health issues among migrant farm workers in Kettleman City. [Los Angeles Times].

Residents of the town, a popular stop-off for drivers between the Central Coast and Fresno on Hwy. 41, suspect the deformities are due to a nearby toxic waste dump. Plans have already been announced to expand the dump’s capacity, but residents quickly filed a lawsuit to block any further increase.

The California Department of Public Health recently declined to investigate the reported cases. Authorities have recorded at least five cleft palate or cleft lip cases among 20 live births in a 14-month period–amounting to about 250 cases per 1000 live births, far above the national average of 1 per 1000 cases.

Hundreds of Kettleman City residents traveled to San Francisco this week to protest on the steps of the EPA regional office and demand action. No timetable for the completion of the investigation was announced.


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According to Medicinenet.com, the cause of cleft palates is not known, so EPA has its work cut out for it in finding any sort of causality.


The condition seems to have links to pre-natal care as well as a heredity component.


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