Well, not really. But it is a tale about consumption and the birth of babes in humble surroundings, specifically, Kettleman City, California. It's a tiny, Spanish-speaking farm town three miles from the largest toxic waste dump in the West.
Of 20 children known born here between September 2007 to November 2008, five had a cleft in their palate or lips, according to a health survey by community activists.
Clefts of the lip or palate routinely occur in fewer than 1-in-800 births in California, according to state health statistics.
Owners of the waste facility have offered to fund a health study, but they say there's no evidence linking the dump to the maladies. Other potential culprits are pesticides sprayed on nearby fields, discolored drinking water and exhaust from Interstate 5, the West Coast's major north-south highway, that borders the town.
Ironically, some of the chemical waste in the neighborhood comes from Mexico, where U.S. auto batteries were sent for recycling. When signs of lead poisoning started showing up in communities near that facility, Mexico and the EPA paid to ship some of the waste back to America.
In other words, babies with birth defects and adults with high incidences of cancer and asthma are one result of this American life.
Doing it the old-fashioned way.
Down-the-hill method of waste disposal, Colorado (left) and Chinese street life near the local lead plant.
The concentration of waste near people without power or the money to move elsewhere happens all over the world today, but the more usual historic pattern was dumping in place. Whether it was sewage, garbage, or construction debris, the waste byproducts would be distributed more evenly unless the farming, mining or manufacture was done on a large scale.
Even without big dumps that pull in waste from elsewhere, residents in Libby, Montana, inhaled asbestos. Folks in Moab, Utah, still deal with background radiation and leachate from uranium tailings. Rural Louisianans live with toxins and sludge from the oil industry and its partner, petrochemicals. Floridians watch sugar growers pollute the Everglades. West Virginians wheeze and eventually strangle on coal dust.
Kettleman City is just more egregious example.
The company operating the dump may not be blameless, but it is handling the toxic residue of America's production of lead, arsenic, asbestos and PCBs in a location bombarded with agricultural chemicals and vehicle emissions. As a Chemical Waste Management spokeswoman says, "there's a high degree of complexity."
She's right. And as American consumers with big garages and nice, neat backyards, we contribute to it.