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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

Inconclusive conclusions

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Sierra Crane-Murdoch's thoughtful article on the legacy of the tragic cancer deaths of young children in Fallon, Nev., brought to mind the cancer clusters amid the pesticide-saturated lands in California's Central Valley (HCN, 3/3/14). The investigations result in the same inconclusive and deeply unsatisfying official conclusions. Suspicions linger for years that information has been withheld, but those most affected – farm workers and others with few resources – have little they can do except complain.

What struck me was the simplistic, single-cause model that seemed to guide both the research and the interpretation of the results. Was it arsenic? Was it something in the jet fuel? Was it tungsten? Couldn't it be the combined effect of multiple toxins?

The fact that so many of these cancers erupted at roughly the same time would suggest that these children were close to some tipping point and then something new was introduced that pushed some of them beyond the ability of their bodies to keep up with the challenge of fighting off the toxins.

The story also points to the chronic and ultimately inhumane responses all too typical of many people and seemingly of nearly all corporations. The problem very quickly shifts from "our problem" to "your problem" –– and your problem is going to make a problem for me, so get over it and let's move on. Corporations have a duty to protect their shareholders, and that easily translates to not admitting culpability for anything, and even destroying or hiding any proof to the contrary.

David E. Roy
Fresno, California

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