The air in Fallon, Nev. has significantly higher levels of tungsten and cobalt than does the air in neighboring towns, according to a new research report. The research suggests that the metals in the air come from a point source within Fallon, a community of about 8,000 located in Churchill County about 60 miles east of Reno, Nev.
The finding that Fallons air differs from nearby towns might have medical implications. Since 1997, 16 cases of childhood leukemia have been diagnosed in children who lived in the Fallon area for some time prior to diagnosis. In a 2003 U.S. Health and Human Services report investigating possible causes for the leukemia cases in Fallon, tungsten was mentioned as "a contaminant of concern because it was elevated in urine samples" collected from Fallon-area residents as part of the investigation.
The metal, a component of tungsten steel and tungsten carbide, is used in tools exposed to high temperatures, such as drill bits and the filaments of incandescent light bulbs. Tungsten is naturally present in soils and rocks in Churchill County and other parts of Nevada. The metal was mined in the region around Fallon at various sites, including Churchill Butte.
Mari N. Jensen | EurekAlert!
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