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A Military And Farming Community: Jet Fuel Spills Suspected In The Fallon Leukemia Cluster


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A Military and farming community: Jet fuel spills suspected in the Fallon leukemia cluster

Is "A Civil Action" Happening in Nevada? Families struggle with high rate of childhood leukemia

By Mary Kugler, MSN, RN,C

Guide to Rare/Orphan Diseases

June 6, 2001

Adam's story

Around New Year's 2000, Richard Jernee noticed that his son, Adam, seemed tired and listless most of the time. The two had moved to Fallon, Nevada, the year before, after Adam's parents' divorce. Concerned, Mr. Jernee took Adam to a doctor, and a frightening discovery was made: a fist-sized tumor in Adam's chest.

Adam was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a fast-moving blood cancer. Despite two courses of chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants, and radiation, the leukemia persisted. The radiation therapy damaged Adam's lungs, and he was placed on a respirator. Gradually he fell into a coma, which lasted several weeks until he died on June 3, 2001.

The Fallon leukemia cluster

Adam was just one of 13 children in the Fallon area diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. This military and farming community has a population of just 8,300. Normally the rate of this type of leukemia is only about three in every 10,000 people. A 14th child has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.

The Nevada state health division and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are testing for air, water, and soil contamination in Fallon. The researchers are awaiting federal review committee approval to begin taking tissue samples from affected families and children and a control group of healthy local residents.

"There's a potential cover-up here"

Local residents say it doesn't take a long investigation to figure out that something is poisoning the children. "The frustration is very high because we feel that there shouldn't even be the number 14, let alone this happening with (Adam)," said Brenda Gross in an interview with the Law Vegas Review-Journal. Her 5-year-old son is ill. "This should have been found and stopped a long time ago."

"We understand the parents' frustration," stated CDC spokeswoman Luana Ritch. "Studies of this type, to do them right, are very complicated and they are time-consuming because we have to follow the accepted method."

But local residents, including Mr. Jernee, feel the investigation should be moving along much faster. "I think that there's a potential cover-up here. It's just a gut feeling," he stated to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I don't have any faith in these people any more. . . . How many kids have to die to get to the truth?"

"A Civil Action" connections

Dr. Gary Ridenour of Fallon and Drs. Alan Levin and Vera Byers of nearby Incline Village arranged a meeting for local families and out-of-state plaintiff's attorneys. Dr. Levin testified for plaintiff's attorney Jan Schlichtmann in the Woburn, Massachusetts, environmental lawsuit described in the book and movie, "A Civil Action." That lawsuit was over environmental pollution and multiple cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia, the same disease affecting the Fallon area. The attorneys who came to Fallon were referred by Attorney Schlichtmann.

Jet fuel spills suspected

Drs. Levin and Byers have analyzed many of the ill children's DNA and state that they have discovered patterns showing that environmental poisoning caused the children's blood cells to become cancerous. This supports the families' contention that jet fuel spills at the Fallon Naval Air Station are to blame.

Whatever the problem is, Mr. Jernee just wants to spare other children the ordeal Adam went through. "This whole thing has caused so much pain. I don't want any more children to go through this after what's happened to Adam." Hopefully, in time either through medical or legal means the truth about the Fallon leukemia cluster will be brought to light.

Information from this article was taken from:

- "Boy linked to Fallon leukemia cluster dies." Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 4, 2001. Available online.

- Associated Press. "Boy dies from leukemia; 13 kids ill." The New York Times, June 4, 2001.

- Weissenstein, M. "Fallon boy stricken with leukemia clinging to life." Las Vegas Review- Journal, May 26, 2001. Available online.

SOURCE:

http://rarediseases.about.com/library/weekly/aa060601a.htm

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  • In Memoriam

Was wondering why I kept my squadron POV orders to Fallon Nevada with a list of everyone that went.

By-the-way I always remembered that the water in Fallon Nevada was weird. Water would bead up on my skin, and it seemed like I could not get the soap off of my skin. It was as if oil was in the water, and it left a slick residue feeling while in the showers. Several people said that it was glycerin, although I doubted it. I have always remembered this, as it was remarkable. I know I have left myself open with saying this.

Edited by Stretch
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