A Debilitating Medical Mystery

A Debilitating Medical Mystery

California parents demand to know what environmental factors are causing the high number of birth defects in their community. (LAT)

Five babies in Kettleman City were born with cleft lips and palates, Down syndrome or heart problems in a 14-month period ending in 2008. Three of the babies died. Their grieving mothers have banded together to challenge the proposed expansion of a nearby toxic waste dump that they blame for the deformities. The health of area residents is additionally compromised by exposure to farm chemicals as well as tap water that is unfit to drink due to high levels of arsenic.

This Los Angeles Times audio slideshow focuses on the impact this toxic stew has had on the farmworker families who live in Kettleman — one of the poorest communities in the state. Touching photos of the children and their concerned parents put a face on a problem that had been previously ignored by local officials who count on the dump for revenue. Layered audio of statements by the affected residents and company officials emphasize contrasting perspectives on the situation.

The normally timid immigrant women say that their pain gave them strength to publically fight for justice. As a result of their actions, an EPA study was ordered on the landfill that is due out later this year.

CHANNEL: Los Angeles Times

Length: 7:33

Photography and video by Liz O. Baylen