As a parent of a child that was born with a birth defect, you ask yourself “Why?” In most cases, there are no clear answers, but for families in Kettleman City, California the cause may be a toxic dump. A federal inquiry of the dump has been launched by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has followed suit by calling for a “a thorough investigation” by state officials.
Aided by the environmental group Greenaction, residents filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of the toxic dump in January 2010. In addition to the lawsuit, the group had been putting pressure on the governor to investigate “one of the nation’s largest hazardous waste dumps” for causing the birth defects in the community. The Silicon Valley Mercury News reports:
Schwarzenegger’s intercession comes more than a year after activists petitioned state agencies to investigate whether a large toxic dump near the community might be causing cleft palates and other defects among the mostly low-income Latino residents.
The dump, operated by Houston-based Waste Management, is the largest hazardous waste facility west of the Mississippi.
Community members say that five babies out of 20 live births in a recent 14-month period had facial deformities. A review by the Kings County Public Health Department found that six of 63 babies born over the same period to mothers living in the town had various birth defects.
According to the official governor’s press release:
The investigation will include interviews with families in Kettleman City who have children with birth defects, the scientific review of soil samples and a full examination of medical records. CalEPA will be present to assess possible environmental contaminants in the air, groundwater and soil that can cause birth defects.
I wish the families in Kettleman City luck in finally bringing toxic dump owners to justice and ensuring a healthy environment for their children.