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May 17, 1995

Along US Southern Border, Pollution, Poverty, Ignorance, and Greed Threaten Nation's Health

JAMA. 1995;273(19):1478-1482. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520430014005

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TWO ROOSTERS scurry from the path of Cynthia Lopez' car as she pulls into the dusty front yard of a home on the west side of El Paso, Tex, where Maria Ramos and her family live. Lopez, an epidemiologist, has stopped by to explain the results of laboratory tests on a sample of the Ramos' well water she collected during an earlier visit.

Ramos and her family live in a substandard dwelling in the colonia called Campestre. As in most of the hundreds of other colonias that have sprung up along both sides of the US-Mexico border, Campestre's houses have no connection to water or sewer lines. Most have shallow pumps that draw water from the Rio Grande flood plain, which is badly contaminated with human, animal, and industrial wastes. Many also have illegal or nonconforming outhouses, cesspools, or latrines that add to the contamination.

Speaking in Spanish, Lopez tells

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