Leukemia panel to convene once more

FALLON - Monday may mark the day when the state's leukemia cluster investigation ends.

The determination is up to the Churchill County Childhood Leukemia Cluster Expert Panel, which will present its report and recommendations to the public at the Fallon Convention Center on Monday.

Dr. Randall Todd, Nevada state epidemiologist, said if the panel finds there is something else to study it will go on.

Todd said this week it is important for people to understand that everything done in the federal investigation was done at the suggestion of the expert panel. The panel will publicly report whether the federal government and the state fulfilled their recommendations. Panel members will also say if they believe anything further can be done.

"There won't be any new findings announced," Todd said. "For those interested in talking to people who were actually involved with setting up the investigation, (they can) see if they think it was appropriately conducted."

The 7 p.m. meeting will include Dr. Thomas Sinks, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Malcolm Smith with the National Cancer Institute, and Todd.

In the cancer cluster, 16 children were diagnosed and three have died since 1997. The state investigation into the cluster began in July 2000.

The last child diagnosed in the cluster lived in Fallon, moved and was diagnosed elsewhere in July 2002.

Convened Feb. 15, 2001, the panel included experts with extensive experience in pediatric oncology, health effects of arsenic and investigation of leukemia clusters.

Martha Framsted, health division public information officer, said the panel has reviewed the final reports from the CDC and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Leukemia-case families will be given the report before it is released to the public.

The CDC determined in its investigation that elevated amounts of several chemicals, including arsenic, tungsten and some pesticides, were present in study participants. But scientific experts said these results do not explain the cause of the leukemia cluster.

The CDC's cross-sectional results are from the analysis of biologic specimens focusing on blood and urine samples, which were collected from 14 of the 16 leukemia case families and randomly selected comparison families in the community.

Because tungsten levels were high and little research had been done on it, CDC researchers took an additional step and randomly selected 30 homes each in Yerington, Lovelock and Pahrump and tested an adult and child. Urine, tap water, dust and play yard soil were taken and tested for tungsten.

Researchers found that exposure to tungsten is not unique to Churchill County, but local children did have higher levels of the metal in their urine.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also presented its findings in February 2003 that no relationship was found between environmental exposure pathways and the leukemia cases.

Contact Becky Bosshart at bboss-hart@lahontanvalleynews.com


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