California Birth Defect Cluster

California’s public health department tracked 30-64 births a year in Kettleman City for 22 years. During 15 of those years, all the babies were born healthy and in 5 years, only one birth defect occurred. But over a period of nearly three years, at least 11 babies were born with serious birth defects, mostly cleft lips or palates, but others more serious.

Even though Kettleman City is very small and remote, its residents have been exposed to an array of toxic chemicals including diesel fumes from 100 trucks that roll through town every day; toxic pesticides from farms that border the town and two municipal wells contaminated with arsenic and benzene from natural causes.

Some believe the most toxic environmental exposure comes from a huge hazardous waste dump three miles from town. Hazardous waste in the dump includes asbestos, pesticides, petroleum products and tons of materials contaminated with PCBs—currently banned chemicals that are linked to cancer and birth defects.

Studies to date have found no specific causes for the Kettleman Birth Defect Cluster, but since “every birth defect has a cause”, we would like to help families in Kettleman and other parts of California who would like to take another look at their data through a different research project, the National Birth Defect Registry.

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