State to probe birth defects spike in Calif. town

Jan 30, 2010 By TRACIE CONE , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered two state agencies to investigate a rash of birth defects that have confounded impoverished Kettleman City for more than a year.

Schwarzenegger's intervention into a bitter environmental battle came as a surprise and relief to both residents and the activists who have been demanding answers.

"This is a tremendous victory for the people of Kettleman City, whose pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears, including the state's for the past 15 months, said Bradley Angel, executive director of the environmental justice group Greenaction. "We just wish he would have done this a year ago."

The became a rallying point last year for residents trying to stop the expansion plans of the West's largest hazardous waste facility by Chemical Waste Management Inc. Their stories of miscarriages and the photographs they carried of children with facial defects failed to convince the Kings County Board of Supervisors that the company's expansion plans should not go forward.

"It seems like we're finally getting justice," said resident Maricela Mares-Alatorre, whose family first butted heads with Waste Management 20 years ago over plans to build an incinerator. "It has been a long time coming."

Mares-Alatorre and Angel said they hope the governor will stop the permit process.

"We want what everyone in every town wants: health and safety," Mares-Alatorre said. "To get to see now what is causing the problems here is a big victory for us."

Officials of Waste Management said they welcome the investigation and are confident it will show their operation is not to blame for the facial defects in five of 20 children born there between September 2007 and November 2008.

"We are very confident that our facility is protective of human health and the environment, but it is critical that the families in Kettleman City get answers," said spokeswoman Kit Cole.

The town sits near Interstate 5, a the main trucking corridor in California. Some say diesel emissions and pesticides on nearby farm fields could be contributing to the health problems.

Schwarzenegger's order comes two days after a protest in San Francisco outside of the U.S. EPA headquarters, where residents of the town of 1,500 residents midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco sought to draw attention to the issues.

Also this week Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region, promised to visit Kettleman City and to probe his own department and make sure "every enforcement, regulatory and permitting action that should've been taken has been taken."

The governor said both the California Department of Public Health and the state EPA will conduct the investigation and present initial findings at a meeting Feb. 9. The investigation will include interviews with residents, and reviews of soil samples and medical records.

Explore further: Preterm delivery, low birth weight and neonatal risk in pregnant women with high blood pressure

4.8 /5 (5 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

San Francisco to insure uninsured

Jul 27, 2006

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously in favor of a plan to provide universal health insurance for San Franciscans.

Hurricane hazardous waste is collected

Oct 31, 2005

The EPA says an estimated 1 million pounds of household hazardous waste has been collected in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

EPA sued over claims of air pollution in West

Jun 06, 2009

(AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was sued Friday by an environmental group that claims the agency has failed to safeguard public health in the West by not limiting the transmission of air pollution across ...

E-waste in trash prohibited in California

Feb 10, 2006

It is illegal in California to place most consumer electronics, such as computers and televisions, as well as fluorescent bulbs and batteries in the trash.

City not EPA responsible for Ground Zero

Sep 08, 2006

Former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says the order for Ground Zero workers to wear respirators during the Sept. 11 cleanup had to come from New York City.

Recommended for you

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

6 hours ago

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Internists favor public policy to reduce gun violence

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Most internists believe that firearm-related violence is a public health issue and favor policy initiatives aimed at reducing it, according to research published online April 10 in the Annals of ...

iPLEDGE isotretinoin counseling may need updating

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The iPLEDGE program needs to provide women with information about more contraceptive choices, including reversible contraceptives, according to research published in the April issue of JAMA De ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Roj
4 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2010
The Governor's promise provides advanced warning, and necessary delay for document destruction services, and strategic-legal delay.

The advanced notice of future investigation does not catch law breakers in the act, it makes the victims burden of proof more difficult and costly in any court.

Political science refers to this process as a hegemony. In States where industry finances the elections of public officials, public servants reciprocate, creating a private-enterprise hegemony.

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...