Children in a small Nevada town are stricken with leukemia.

A person injecting a liquid into a tube through a syringe

It was a leukemia epidemic

4 children playing in the playground of a school

16 children got cancer in one small town


For many who lived in Fallon, Nevada, it seemed like the perfect place to raise a family. But there was something terrible happening to the children of Fallon. It all began with Dustin Gross. According to his mother, Brenda, she was giving her son a bath when she noticed bruises on his back and arms:

“I asked him what was he doing? Why did he have these bruises? And he told me he was playing with his friend on the Big Wheels. And I thought, OK, that makes sense, that’s where the bruises came from. But then the next day, my husband had noticed a lot more bruises and brought it up to my attention. I saw he had bruises all over his body, his arms, his legs, his stomach, his back, and little red blood specks on the surface of his skin, and I knew that something was wrong at that point.”

A jet plane touching down on the landing strip of a local air base

Was it solvents from the nearby air base?

Brenda took Dustin to the local hospital and he was immediately transferred to the UC Davis Medical Center. Blood was drawn and according to Brenda, a diagnosis was made:

“The doctor told us that Dustin had leukemia. I knew what leukemia was, I knew it was a cancer but I didn’t actually realize how severe.”

Brenda soon learned the seriousness of Dustin’s condition. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia strikes children, usually between the ages of two and nine. It causes the production of millions of defective white blood cells, destroying the immune system, and can be fatal. Dustin underwent aggressive chemotherapy:

“Seeing him lie there so lethargic and so lifeless. I think that’s probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with. It was not easy.”

A scientist with latex gloves places dirt samples on to a metal tray

… Radiation in the soil?

Within weeks of Dustin Gross’s diagnosis, two more local children were also found to have leukemia. The cancer treatment facility at the local hospital, run by Barbara deBraga, was overwhelmed:

“Even at that point I was just thinking, it’s just a coincidence. It’s just a terrible coincidence, but it’s just a coincidence. But then shortly after the third, we got a referral for a fourth.”

Barbara deBraga feared she was looking at an epidemic. It appeared to be what experts call a “cancer cluster.” She contacted the state assemblyperson for the Fallon area and an official investigation was launched. As the disease struck victims number five and six, state epidemiologist, Dr. Randall Todd prepared an all-out inquiry:

“A couple of days after, a seventh case was diagnosed. And so, this started to kind of make the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little bit. It was a frightening time.”

An alarmed Dr. Todd immediately sought a common denominator shared by all the victims that might explain the epidemic. However, interviews with parents produced no answers. And Dr. Todd watched helplessly as new cases continued to appear. Zach Beardsley was the ninth child diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Zach’s mother, Tammi Beardsley, was shocked when she heard the news:

“When I heard I was number nine in a cancer cluster, at that time my child was so ill that all I could think about was how do I get out of this mess with a healthy child?”

A small river next to Fallon, Nevada

… arsenic in the water?

The search for the common denominator continued. What did all these children share that might explain their illness? Tammi Beardsley opened her house to scientific investigators to help augment the investigation:

“There was a team of people that came into our home and vacuumed, took dust samples, air quality samples, water samples, biological testing, blood tests.”

But these tests were inconclusive. Perhaps the problem was not in the children’s homes but in the surrounding environment. Was there something unique about Fallon that could explain why a cancer cluster appeared there? According to Dr. Todd, researchers began with the water:

“The one thing that makes this community sort of stand out is that they have one of the highest rates of naturally occurring arsenic in their water supply of any place in the nation.”

Researchers also found mercury in a nearby lake and several canals—places where children were known to play. There were other possibilities, as well. Pesticides had contaminated nearby farms and underground atomic testing during the sixties had left traces of radiation. But according to Dr. Todd, scientists failed to link any of these factors to the cancer cluster:

“Working on this really is like trying to do a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. What we can say, is that we likely will not have the complete puzzle put together at the end of this investigation.”

There was one other possibility. Fallon is located ten miles from a naval air station used to train fighter pilots. According to Dr. Todd, the jet fuel contains benzene, which is known to cause cancer:

“There is a pipeline which transports jet fuel. The pipe comes right through and underneath Fallon and winds up at the Fallon Naval Air Station. We wondered, was there fuel getting into the water supply? But we didn’t find any evidence that the water had been contaminated with jet fuel.”

While authorities searched for answers, the parents of the children tried to remain optimistic. After two years of intensive chemotherapy, Dustin Gross celebrated his “end of treatment” party. According to his mother, Brenda, her son’s cancer was finally in remission:

“I am worried for my family and my other children, and for Dustin still. I will never give up on pushing the research to find what has caused childhood leukemia in a cluster in this community. Obviously continued research is going to get us closer and closer. And I feel that we will find it, but we cannot let up.”

A total of 16 children developed leukemia in a span of five years. Experts now believe that ground deposits of cobalt and tungsten may have caused the outbreak in Fallon.

External Link: The Nevada Department of Health

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season twelve with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. wilturn3006

    As a long time resident of Fallon, I remembered when this cluster happened. It went on for only a short time but there were a number of cases and they caused quiet a stir. I knew a boy who passed away from leukemia in Fallon. They may have removed the substance that caused the cluster as we haven’t had another since then. They ruled out the water arsenic and the underground nuclear testing site I believe although they still haven’t officially established what caused it. I think it may have been from the jet fuel mentioned in the case. It was very sad all these children got it. I knew at least one boy who passed away which wasn’t mentioned in the case when broadcasted. The cluster is a part of our small town’s history that nobody locally likes to or does talk about, even to this day. The museum doesn’t even mention it. Now, Fallon doesn’t have much violent crime and is a small, quiet community though it has grown since the clusters. It’s a good place to settle down in and put down roots.


  2. Dr Michael Chase

    Recently new studies have linked Monsanto’s Roundup to an increased risk of developing NHL and ALL . Glyphosate causes cancer according to WHO. I hope the families can finally get some closure by investigating this possible cause of these clusters.


  3. Linda latham

    I was raised in indianapolis Indiana and on DEC 1995 my father was diagnosed with renel cell carececoma and fought q fought battle this camcer came in for revenge he fpught it off in 89 and became ill in 95 so threw out the time he was ill in nov 96 my father lost his life and i started to relize tgat 28 people have came down wotg same kind cancer within a 10 miles of our house some was as close as a stret away anf yrs later my mother has to go in and have her kidney taken put because she had renal cell carcecoma tge same cabcef my father pased with she is currently doimg ok thabk god but now my brother gas started seeing a camcer dr they havent said what limd he has but it has me scared vonsidering my fathe passed at 45 and my brother is 45 so im really worried o believe tgefe is a lroblem qitg either the air the water or the soil because gow can so many have same kind cancer and not be related the only ones wgo was blood related is my brother and my mother but my mom and dad are not blood related but she had same konda camcef my niece died of brain cancer at 16 and found out afyer warss the water line was so old that ot was what caused her tp geg brain camcer and 3 kods afyer her moved in same apartment and they also passes from brain camcef so sometgong need done to figire out what is happenong we all deserve to live long and helthy lifes i pray for all of u qho have had cancer or still has camcer and ur familys my heart gpes put tp u all


  4. Lori Parry

    Several children in Marietta, OH were diagnosed with leukemia after being born in the same hospital about three and a half years. They have been searching for a cause without luck.


  5. Samantha M

    I have Leukemia. I was diagnosed in 1994 at 4 years old. I was one of 3 children in my small town of Gadsden, Alabama to get this in the exact same year. We all lived within a 5 mile radius of each other. One of the other kids actually lived a mile from me on the exact same road!! I hope to find out any information regarding why this happened!!!


  6. Frank Sayer

    Everyone here has forgotten a new attachment on everyone house called Smart Meters that releases RF Radiation daily especially around the meter itself. Many of these meters are mounted on the bedroom walls outside. The radiation will cover and extend up to ten feet into the bedroom. While children are sleeping at night and the bed is next to the wall where their head lays they absorb RF into their bodies. PLC- Power Line Carrier Systems that monitor your daily usage and read the meter are turned on most of the time. Take a AM Radio and get near the meter and you can hear the rushing sound of energy being expelled. This system has been banned in Europe because of the increase of childhood Leukemia rates were so high after they were installed. Not all homes would be affected, if they are not mounted near bedrooms. They have to be located where people are exposed long periods of time. Check your home and see where the meter is located. This system also affects all the wiring in your home when the system is turned on to monitor loads. Even your refrigerator will throw off radiation or anything that is metal and hooked to the system.


  7. Lynda Cowart

    Small town Ocilla Georgia is believed to have something in the water, arsenic maybe. There is a lady here that is investigating it. Her name is Janet McMahan aka the Water Lady. Her husband is a doctor here. There is an air force base about 40 to 50 miles south of Ocilla in Valdosta Georgia. The McMahan’s lost there youngest son a couple of years ago due to cancer. Several more children in surrounding counties have been diagnosed with cancer.


  8. Anonymous

    St Francis County, in Mo, has a lot of children with cancer lately. Bonne Terre, Mo has contamination in the drinking water. We get reports all the time. Erin Brockovich came to our area, closed down two swimming lakes in one of our state parks. As soon as she left, they opened them. We need an investigation, and a remedy


    • Bonnie Rogers

      They are spraying the air with coal ash waste and other metals. The rain in the US is sometimes radioactive. It’s called geoengineering and they have been doing it for a long time but now it’s admitted by Harvard University. They call it the solar shield. Calcium carbonate is one toxic ingredient and it’s a waste from the fly ash. Then there is the GWEN towers with high frequencies.


  9. C. Johnson

    Cancer clusters are not the only kind of clusters we have in the U.S. There are all kinds of them. a-z. Autism Lung ailments, stomach issues, severe allergies. Years ago (early 2000) I tried to get people to map their family ailments but it didn’t catch on.


  10. Fred Overcashier

    I came down with leukemia in my 60ty and my doctor said that the cause of my illness was from the jet fuel getting into the drinking water system (1967-1971 Vietnam). Now I wait over 10 years for the VA to pay for the damage. I lost my home and everything I own for the military related illness


  11. Anonymous

    I remember years back Vince Neil of Motley Crue had a young daughter that was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He discovered there had been numerous cases of cancer in the community and complaints had been made against a nearby company that had been dumping toxic waste. He sued and got a huge settlement, not that he needed it, but it sure sent a message. It’s a shame you have to be a rich celebrity to get anything done about things like this. RIP Skylar Neil


  12. Marjorie Smith

    There was a child cancer cluster in Rochester, N.Y.A@A
    I do not live there but was told about it. Sorry, I do not remember the date or the year it happened.


  13. Thomas

    it could be a new epidemic
    I hope it doesn’t continue


  14. Mary Jaskolski

    I live in a small town in northern WI. Most people with cancer in the area go to the local clinic up here. and there are a lot. Sometimes we need to go to Marshfield. which is a bigger facility. They have a place called hope lodge where you can stay for free if you are there for some kind of cancer care or tests. I was there once and they have a map on the office wall so you can put a stick pen in the area in which you live. I was astounded by how many stick pins were in the area in which I live. Literaly thousands. I couldn’t even find a place to put mine. This is a very small area. I don’t know if there is something wrong with our water or air or dirt or something. Something is going on here. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 yrs ago, and has reoccurred three times. I just can’t get rid of it. Almost all the placed up here have separate wells and septics. So I really don’t know whats going on. but if you or someone would look into it, you would think there is something going on too. Years ago there was also mining going on. maybe that has something to do with it. a lot of people have died up here from different types of cancer. and many are going through chemo and radiation their second and third times. My name is Mary Jaskolski, 2607 Len Ellen Cir. ,. Sayner, WI 54560


    • Bonnie Rogers

      Is there any coal ash dump sites or coal factories there. Or maybe fracking. The factory chicken farms take the chicken manure and spray it in the air. My friend’s wife of 42 years died of cancer and they lived near a perdu farm.


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