Healing a dirty town

  Chip Ward, an environmental activist from Grantsville, Utah, started the West Desert Healthy Environment Alliance (HEAL) because citizens noticed abnormally high rates of illness in town. But when the group approached the state Bureau of Epidemiology for information, the agency said that though cancer rates were high, its research showed no discernible pattern among the town's sick. Not satisfied, Ward's group decided to go door to door and conduct its own survey. Where the state bureau determined that 237 people had cancer, HEAL found 201 cases after surveying only half of the town. Of the cancer patients, 80 percent have been long-time residents. The group's survey also reported 187 serious respiratory problems and 29 birth defects. The culprit, Ward speculates, is the pollutants residents have been exposed to years of atomic, military, radiation and nerve gas testing. Grantsville is home to Dugway Proving Grounds, which routinely blows up munitions, and Tooele Army Depot, which holds the country's largest stockpile of chemical weapons. HEAL has called for a comprehensive health study, a moratorium on new emissions, better air monitoring, and the opening up of all military records. For more information, call Chip Ward at 800/662-9150.

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