McFARLAND, Calif. — A public health researcher who resigned rather than give McFarland a clean bill of health after a cancer study, said Monday that he believes pesticides may have caused a cluster of cancer cases in the Kern County farming community.
"I believe there is something there that is causing the cancer and I think it eventually will be linked to pesticides," said Thomas Lazar, who resigned his post as coordinator of the Kern County childhood cancer study in McFarland.
Stamp of Approval
Lazar said that, despite a report by the county health officer giving the town a stamp of approval, his study showed indications of pesticides in the water supply.
"The residue was just at trace levels in the water in some areas of the town but in others, cancer-causing elements were quite high," Lazar said in a telephone interview from his office at the United Farm Workers union headquarters in Kene, where he now works.
The UFW has joined McFarland parents in contending that excessive pesticide use is the cause of the cancer cluster. There was no immediate response from the county health department.
Lazar's comments came a few days after cancer killed Mario Bravo, 14. The teen-ager, who died Thursday night in a Delano hospital of liver cancer, was the fifth child cancer victim who lived in a two-block area of McFarland.
At least 11 confirmed cases of childhood cancer have been certified in the McFarland city limits in the past decade, with most of the children dying.
Lazar said there may be as many as 30 childhood cancer cases in the McFarland area.
The cluster of childhood cancer in McFarland has been under study since 1985, but so far officials have said they have been unable to pinpoint the cause.
State Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) has held two hearings on the McFarland cancer cases. At the second hearing in Bakersfield last month, Torres said he would call for an expanded probe of the McFarland cancers headed by state, instead of local, officials.