By Dawn Cranfield
Could There be a Link to the Fallon Cancer Cluster in Fernley, Nevada?
There are still no definitive answers to what has been considered to be a “cancer cluster” in Fallon, Nevada, a small farming community approximately 62 miles East of Reno. While Fallon is largely farmland with a principle crop of alfalfa, the area is also known for their largest employer, Naval Air Station Fallon.
From 1997 until 2004, 17 children from the Fallon area were diagnosed with leukemia, a number that far exceeds the number that would be expected for the population of 8600 residents (2010 Census, 8606 residents). It was deemed to be a cancer cluster, a geographic area with a statistically higher than average occurrence of cancer among its residents.
As of the last articles printed on the cluster, no new cases have been reported, and scientists have stopped looking for the source of the leukemia. There were many tests performed, numerous studies, and a $700 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that Senator Harry Reid secured to assist scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno, UC San Francisco, and the University of Arizona to find a cause. (kolotv.com) They have had several hypotheses including tungsten from a manufacturing plant in Fallon, jet fuel from the Naval Air Station, to high levels of arsenic in the water.
In total, three children died from the Fallon Cancer Cluster. But, for the Fallon and Fernley area, the story does not end there; Floyd Sands, the father of one of the children who died of leukemia died of brain cancer in 2011. Floyd was an activist who fought vigilantly to determine the cause of the cluster; he organized a door-to-door project to question residents regarding their cancers, known as “Stephanie’s Walk” after his deceased daughter. “Kids and adults in Fallon and surrounding Churchill County are coming down with a myriad of other rare diseases, such as Myelodysplastic Syndrome and aplastic anemia. These diseases also relentlessly attack the bone marrow,” writes Jeffrey St. Clair in his article And a US Navy Bombing (rense.com).
Just to the West of Fallon is the town of Fernley, about 15 miles away and a little more than twice the size with a population of just over 19,000 according to the 2010 US
Census. Once known as the bedroom community to Reno when the economy was booming, it is now one of the US’ saddest looking examples of what the economic downturn has to offer. Around 2006, in better times, there was a Starbuck’s, a new sports bar, and a myriad of other new businesses popping up at every corner. Sadly, many of those business have shut down and now sit vacant.
But, that is not the most depressing thing that has happened in this community, at least not in my personal circle. My sister and her family have lived in that area for roughly 20 years, as a result, my nephew has had a very close group of friends for many years. He is now in his mid 20’s with a group of roughly 6 friends with whom he keeps in very close contact; many of them have been roommates at one time or another. Of these 6, one young man had a tumor so bad that he nearly died, now he is so disabled that he will never work again most likely and cannot function the way his other friends do. Another one of the 6 has recently begun to have seizures that are so severe that the friends can be walking down the street and he can have a seizure that will land him in the hospital to receive stitches.
So, out of 6 lifelong childhood friends all growing up in the same area, 33% of them have some type of neurological disorder that will affect them for the rest of their life. Could it be the water, or something else environmental?
Then, there is my sister’s pets; she has had no less than 4 unrelated pets all die from tumors. My family has had dogs, cats, fish, and even birds my whole life growing up and they have all died in many different ways, but I cannot recall one pet who ever died from tumors or cancers. We did have one cat who died from feline leukemia, but I believe she was 16 years old. Our pets died from old age, being hit by cars, the cat ate the bird, and various other ailments; but, to have four pets all with different tumors, it seems unlikely to me.
For now, it seems that the Fallon Cancer Cluster case is closed as far as the government and the scientists are concerned, but for those that live in the area or have been affected by it, there are still concerns because there have been no definitive answers. I, for one, grow more concerned every time I see my sister and note that she appears more diminutive each time I see her and I hear of one more ailment – either hers or her pet’s.