Eleven children who have ties with Fallon, which has particularly high levels of arsenic in the water of the surrounding area, have been diagnosed with acute lympocytic leukaemia, the majority being diagnosed within the last 12 months, with two further unconfirmed cases being reported only last week.

Although the state health department has been looking into the cases, state assemblywoman, Marcia de Braga, has asked the legislature to immediately appropriate $1 million in order to clean up contamination in the area, carry out further environmental tests, and educate local residents about how to protect themselves. Other members of the legislature have also called for the supply of bottled water or the installation of treatment systems in the region’s eight schools.

According to de Braga, the arsenic level in the city’s municipal supply is approximately 100 parts per billion, twice the federal limit (see related story). In addition, the county has 4,800 private wells, some with arsenic at even higher levels. However, many people doubt that arsenic alone is the culprit. “From [the city’s] point of view, we’ve had arsenic in the water for ever,” said de Braga. “We haven’t had a leukaemia cluster for ever.”

Meanwhile, the health department has convened a panel of experts in order to review research findings and to make recommendations. A spokesperson said that these would be released to the public by the end of the month.

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