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Report expected on birth defects in Kettleman City

November 22, 2010 | 11:26 am

State health officials are expected to release a long-awaited report Monday on their investigation into the possible causes of severe birth defects in Kettleman City, a Central California farming community of about 1,500 mostly Spanish-speaking residents.

State health investigators tested air, water and soil throughout the region and studied family histories to determine why at least five of 20 babies born between September 2007 and November 2009 in Kettleman City suffered birth defects, including heart problems and cleft palates and lips.

Their findings are not likely to satisfy Kettleman City residents and environmentalists who suspect the health problems were somehow related to a nearby toxic waste dump, the largest and only facility of its kind west of Louisiana and the only landfill in California permitted to receive cancer-causing PCBs.

Waste Management Inc. is seeking permission to expand the facility, about 3.2 miles southwest of Kettleman City. Last year, the facility took in 400,000 tons of hazardous waste. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, mostly hauled in from Southern California, made up about 1% of that amount.

-- Louis Sahagun