These photos are from the saddest project I ever worked on, the Rosamond childhood cancer cluster. I shot this over several months in 1988. There were two cancer clusters in Kern County at the time. The other was in McFarland, and Henry Barrios worked on that one. Probably because of the political clout and organizing abilities of the United Farm Workers, McFarland received most of the national media attention. But out in the desert, the people of Rosamond found themselves confronting an environmental horror of epic proportions: In a 10-year period, 9 children had come down with cancer, most of them with an extremely rare brain cancer called medullablastoma. The cancer was so rare that one health official said if two cases appeared in a city the size of Los Angeles in the same time period, officials would have considered it cause for alarm. Rosamond had 3,500 residents at the time. The childhood cancer rate in Rosamond was six times the national average. Residents were left to their own grass roots efforts in an effort to get answers, usually holding organizing meetings in the local feed store. They were convinced that years of unregulated dumping of toxic chemicals, wiring and discarded materials from the area’s massive civil and military aeronautical industries caused the cancers. State investigations were never able to pinpoint a source, and the cause of the clusters was never found. One thing that is not in dispute, however, is that this far southeast section of Kern County was a dumping ground. Reporter Sally Connell and I had no trouble finding dozens of illegal dumps anywhere we went in town, often on the grounds or adjacent to where families, mostly poor rural families lived in trailers. By contrast, across the Los Angeles County line that divided Kern and LA counties, there was no illegally dumped material to be found. I believe that all of the children who contracted the brain cancer died. Residents believe the state didn’t do enough to solve the case.