Educating Health Professionals and Community Activities
When five children were diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in Churchill County within a few months of
each other in late summer 2000, Nevada State Health Division officials initiated an investigation of the high
number of childhood leukemia cases. As the investigation developed, in early 2001 ATSDR staff was requested to
help address community stress related issues. Contact was made with the Center for Mental Health Services, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency branch tasked with mental health support. A counselor specializing in
disaster technology was subsequently engaged to conduct a needs assessment to identify community concerns associ-
ated with the continuing investigation. In addition to community concerns, the needs assessment also identified local
resources that could provide assistance. Those contacted during the needs assessment included residents, farmers,
community leaders, and representatives from Naval Air Station Fallon.
A major outcome of the needs assessment was the establishment of Community United Response Team
(CURT), a community action group to serve as a forum for community members to express ongoing concerns. One
of the early requests of CURT was a request for ATSDR staff to conduct a series of community stress and risk
communication seminars for Churchill County residents, physicians, and nurses. A major issue addressed during the
September 2001 training was health care professionals concerns as to the best methods to communicate and interact
with parents worried about their children's health as a result of the ongoing investigation.
Also at the request of CURT, in May 2002 ATSDR conducted a two-day, risk communication seminar for residents
focused on the cancer cluster investigation. Included among issues addressed at the training were resident's concerns
and recommendations as to dealing with high levels of media attention focused on the Fallon community.
Over a one week period in August 2002, ATSDR at the request of CURT conducted a follow-on educational needs
assessment to identify continuing concerns and high priority community educational needs. Funded by Naval Air
Station Fallon, it consisted of eight separate focus groups encompassing virtually every segment of the local popula-
tion. Areas identified as concerns by the community were a desire for comprehensive information regarding all
aspects of children's cancer, explanations and how to interpret a broad range of health statistics and specific medical
and health information regarding children's health, particularly environmental issues. It was suggested that a Health
Fair would be a means to provide information to the largest number of parents and residents.
ATSDR staff will meet in mid-February 2003 with community representatives to further plan the educational activi-
ties identified in the August assessment of NASF. This will coincide with a series of public availability sessions sched-
uled with the release of one public health assessment and a series of health consultations.
The following is an example of a site-specific health study that ATSDR supported in Nevada.
Carson River Mercury Exposure Study - The purpose of this study was to assess human exposures to
at the site. Mercury levels
in blood and urine samples were measured and compared for
two groups of 398 residents: those living 4,000 feet or less from the site, and those living more than 6,000 feet
from the site. Potential risk factors were also examined. Results of the study indicated that all observed mercury
levels (total mercury content) in blood and urine were below levels of concern (20 parts per billion in urine and
30 parts per billion in blood).
ATSDR develops toxicological profiles that describe health effects, environmental characteristics, and other informa-
tion, for substances found at NPL sites. These profiles describe pathways of human exposure and the behavior of
toxic substances in environmental media such as air, soil, and water. Since 1995, more than 390 of these profiles have
been supplied directly by ATSDR to requesters, including representatives of federal, state, and local health and
environmental departments; academic institutions; private industries; and nonprofit organizations; in Nevada.