To improve understanding of possible connections between airborne tungsten and public health, size and geography of airborne tungsten particles collected in Fallon, Nevada, and Sweet Home, Oregon, were compared. Both towns have industrial tungsten facilities, but only Fallon has experienced a cluster of childhood leukemia. Fallon and Sweet Home are similar to one another by their particles of airborne tungsten being generally small in size. Meteorologically, much, if not most, of residential Fallon is downwind of its hard metal facility for at least some fraction of time at the annual scale, whereas little of residential Sweet Home is downwind of its tungsten facility. Geographically, most Fallon residents potentially spend time daily within an environment containing elevated levels of airborne tungsten. In contrast, few Sweet Home residents potentially spend time daily within an airborne environment with elevated levels of airborne tungsten. Although it cannot be concluded from environmental data alone that elevated airborne tungsten causes childhood leukemia, the lack of excessive cancer in Sweet Home cannot logically be used to dismiss the possibility of airborne tungsten as a factor in the cluster of childhood leukemia in Fallon. Detailed modeling of all variables affecting airborne loadings of heavy metals would be needed to legitimately compare human exposures to airborne tungsten in Fallon and Sweet Home.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis