Scientists investigating the Fallon cancer cluster unveiled further results Friday about tungsten, an element found in abundance in the town where
17 children have been diagnosed with leukemia since 1997.
The preliminary results of one study indicate that tungsten-laced water caused sterility in older male mice. In another study, an analysis of tree leaves in Fallon showed that wind-borne tungsten collects on plants there in larger proportions than most other metals.
Those at the University of Nevada, Reno symposium theorized the Fallon epidemic might have been fueled by environmental factors that harmed the genes of the children who developed leukemia.
Of the 17 children in the cluster, three have died. The last child in the group was diagnosed in 2004.
Dr. William Murphy of the University of Nevada School of Medicine said even though the cancer cluster “seems to have abated,” it’s still important to determine the cause.
He and other team members said the Fallon case is unique because the cluster developed so fast in such a small area, and some of the factors that caused it may still exist there.
The research was funded by $750,000 in federal grants obtained by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., for the Fallon Families organization.
Jeff Braccini, whose son Jeremy, 10, has recovered from leukemia, is part of a parents group that lobbied Reid for the money. Braccini said the research isn’t “just about our kids, it’s about your kids and their kids.”