Since 1997, 15 cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia and one case of acute myelocytic leukemia have been diagnosed in children and teenagers who live, or have lived, in an area centered on the town of Fallon, Nevada. The expected rate for the population is about one case every five years. In 2001, 99 domestic and municipal wells and one industrial well were sampled in the Fallon area. Twenty-nine of these wells had been sampled previously in 1989. Statistical comparison of concentrations of major ions and trace elements in those 29 wells between 1989 and 2001 using the nonparametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicate water quality did not substantially change over that period; however, short-term changes may have occurred that were not detected. Volatile organic compounds were seldom detected in ground water samples and those that are regulated were consistently found at concentrations less than the maximum contaminant level (MCL). The MCL for gross-alpha radioactivity and arsenic, radon, and uranium concentrations were commonly exceeded, and sometimes were greatly exceeded. Statistical comparisons using the nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test indicate gross-alpha and -beta radioactivity, arsenic, uranium, and radon concentrations in wells used by families having a child with leukemia did not statistically differ from the remainder of the domestic wells sampled during this investigation. Isotopic measurements indicate the uranium was natural and not the result of a 1963 underground nuclear bomb test near Fallon. In arid and semiarid areas where trace-element concentrations can greatly exceed the MCL, household reverse-osmosis units may not reduce their concentrations to safe levels. In parts of the world where radon concentrations are high, water consumed first thing in the morning may be appreciably more radioactive than water consumed a few minutes later after the pressure tank has been emptied because secular equilibrium between radon and its immediate daughter progeny is attained in pressure tanks overnight.
Additional publication details
Temporal changes in water quality at a childhood leukemia cluster