Kettleman City birth defects not linked to toxic dump, state investigation finds


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A state investigation did not find a common underlying cause for recent birth defects, including heart problems and cleft palates and lips, in Kettleman City, a Central California farming community of about 1,500 mostly Spanish-speaking residents, according to a long-awaited report released Monday.

“While we wish there was an explanation for what caused the birth defects experienced by the children we studied in Kettleman City,’ said California Department of Public Health Director Mark Horton, “our investigation finds that no common health or environmental factor links the cases.”


State health investigators tested air, water and soil throughout the region and studied family histories to determine why at least five of 20 babies born between September 2007 and November 2009 in Kettleman City suffered birth defects.

The 160-page report did not satisfy residents and environmentalists who wanted a clear statement of what caused the health problems or the establishment of a connection to a nearby toxic waste dump, the only facility in California permitted to accept cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

‘I always expected a whitewash,” said Bradley Angel, toxic waste coordinator for the environmental organization Greenaction [Correction: A previous post identifed the group as Greenpeace]. ‘State investigators didn’t test blood or tissue samples, or even look for pesticides inside peoples’ homes.’

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-- Louis Sahagun

PHOTO: Ivan Hernandez was among five babies born with cleft palates n the tiny San Joaquin Valleycommunity of Kettleman City. CREDIT: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times