Lawmaker seeks funds for arsenic-free water in Fallon schools

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie vowed Wednesday to push for $33,000 in state funds for a year's supply of bottled water in Fallon-area schools, ensuring students get water not tainted with arsenic.

"My conscience dictates that I do something about this," the Reno Democrat said. "We must protect our children."

Federal agencies warn that the water supply in the northern Nevada farming and military town -- home to a much-studied childhood leukemia cluster -- contains arsenic at levels 10 times the national safety standard.

Some houses in surrounding Churchill County depend on well water with even more arsenic. Fallon is building a filtration system but it won't be ready for another year.

Two Fallon parents complained during an Assembly Health and Human Services Committee hearing Wednesday that while students can buy bottled water, they shouldn't have access to drinking fountains tapping arsenic-tainted water.

"Is it worth the risk when the cost is so minimal?" asked Jeff Braccini, whose 4-year-old son Jeremy was the most recent Fallon child to be diagnosed with leukemia, in December 2001.

Water is a big worry for Braccini and some other parents in Fallon, where acute lymphocytic leukemia has sickened 16 children since 1997, killing three.

Some suspect the leukemia was caused by a tainted water supply, but the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been unable to identify an environmental cause of the cancers.

The Assembly panel also unanimously passed a bill that Leslie said would help ensure future Nevada cancer clusters were identified more quickly than the Fallon cluster.

AB315 requires the state health officer to analyze reports from health facilities to determine whether there are cancer growth trends, and to investigate any trend.

The bill won support from state epidemiologist Dr. Randall Todd, Braccini and other activists, and Buffy Martin of the American Cancer Society's Nevada branch.

"By passing AB315 you will send a strong message of support to victims and survivors of cancer," Martin said.


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