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Kettleman City: State Air Monitoring Stopped as Birth Defects Increased

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

State regulators did not monitor air quality at a toxic dump in rural Kettleman City, during a period when there was a spike in the number of area babies born with birth defects.

According to an email obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators suspended independent air monitoring for PCBs and pesticides at the Kettleman Hills waste facility in April 2008.

The facility processes about 4,000 tons of PCBs per year. Those chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and liver failure.

This suspension of air quality oversight occurred at the same time as a spike in the number of local babies born with birth defects between September of 2007 and March of 2010. Three babies died of those defects during that period.

This week, the U.S. EPA fined the plant operators 300,000 dollars for failing to properly manage PCBs.

A draft state report recently cleared the plant of causing the birth defects. The report relied on information provided by the toxic dump operators.

Despite the lack of oversight, there's no evidence to  does not prove air pollution caused the birth defects.

UPDATED: State regulators just returned calls for comment, and they are generally disputing the PCB (and pesticide) claims in the email, but couldn't give any specifics. An interview is scheduled for 1pm tomorrow, and we'll update this story then.

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