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Authors

  1. Section Editor(s): Jacobson, Joy

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Marine Corps families were exposed to "volatile organic compounds" in Camp Lejeune's drinking water "for a longer period than we knew," admitted the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in a May 8 statement. The ATSDR also disavowed and removed from its Web site a 12-year-old federal report that acknowledged the exposure but minimized the cancer threat. The ATSDR called the water supply at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune "a public health hazard" that was contaminated for 30 years with not only the toxins trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene (which the Department of the Navy had attributed to improper disposal by an off-base dry cleaner), but also the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

 

A 2009 report from the National Research Council also conceded the exposure but found that "strong scientific evidence is not available to determine whether health problems . . . are due to the contaminants." Although the ATSDR also has "insufficient information to determine if children and adults were adversely affected by these exposures," it's conducting studies to see if a link can be made between the water supply and disease complaints. Meanwhile, former residents and workers have filed about 1,500 claims for $33.8 billion in damages for health problems blamed on the contaminants, including various cancers, birth defects, and neurologic disorders.