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State: We Can't Explain Kettleman Birth Defects Cluster

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 22, 2010

State investigators say they can't explain why so many babies are being born with birth defects in the Central Valley town of Kettleman City.

Between 2008 and 2009, five out of the 20 babies born in Kettleman had birth defects.

Many people in the small community believe these serious abnormalities--- like cleft lip--- are linked to environmental pollution.

The community of 1400 is largely comprised of Latinos living near the poverty line, and there is a toxic waste dump 3.5 miles from the town's elementary school.

In a draft report issued Monday, state investigators at the California Department of Public Health say they can't pinpoint the cause of the birth defects.

"While we wish there was an explanation for what caused the birth defects experienced by the children we studied in Kettleman City," CDPH Director Dr. Mark Horton said in a statement. 

Bradley Angel is skeptical of the report's findings. Angel is with Green Action, and he says investigators come from the same agencies that issued the disposal permits.

"They clearly did not scrutinize their own activities impartially," says Angel. "It was a case of the fox guarding the hen house."

State investigators disagree, saying the draft report is thorough.

The report also found Kettleman's drinking water has elevated levels of arsenic.

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