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Did a Toxic Waste Dump Cause Facial Birth Defects?

By Minara El-Rahman on January 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that they will visit the site of a toxic waste dump in Kettleman, California and address concerns over a rash of facial birth defects.

According to, Kettleman City in the Central Valley about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Interstate 5 is home to about 1,500 people. Most of the residents in this city are poor migrant farm workers. The residents of this city fear that the local toxic waste dump may be the cause of a cluster of facial birth defects. As a result, the residents have banded together and filed a lawsuit against the Kings County Board of Supervisors challenging its approval for the expansion of the toxic waste dump.

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region told the Los Angeles Times that the fact that the city is home to so many poor migrant workers is one of the reasons that the EPA will look into the cluster of facial birth defects. He told the Los Angeles Times: "Kettleman City is a very vulnerable community at the confluence of large agriculture and pesticide use, heavy truck traffic, a chemical waste facility accepting PCBs and a proposed 600-megawatt power plant. This is also a community trying to be represented in a way to get its voice heard." These residents may finally get a chance to voice their concerns over a rise in facial birth defects in their children.

Since September 2007, there have been at least five cleft palate or cleft lip cases among the 20 live births in a 14 month period in the city. The EPA plans on recommending that state and local authorities look into environmental reviews of the city.

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