Special to CONTRACTOR
Camp Lejeune, N.C.— Marine Corps officials are still seeking former Marine families who conceived or raised children while living in base housing here from 1968 through 1985. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a public health service agency, is conducting a health survey involving as many as 16,500 people.
Last November, the Defense Department publicized the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Health Survey and expressed the need for eligible individuals to participate. The health survey focuses on compounds, which are often used in dry cleaning or as degreasers, that existed in low amounts within the Camp Lejeune water distribution system between 1968 and 1985. The survey attempts to gather data for a research study about the effects these substances may have had on children who were exposed to them before birth.
The specific chemicals addressed in the survey are tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a commonly used dry cleaning solvent, and trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser. Both PCE and TCE have been linked to birth defects and childhood cancers such as leukemia. The sources of the chemicals apparently include a dry cleaner located across the street from the base as well as leaks in underground storage tanks and past disposal practices in an industrial area on the base.
The substances were discovered in the early 1980s during routine water testing. At that time, no federal or state regulations existed for these compounds found in water, said Capt. Steve Butler, a Marine spokesman. All wells that were found to contain these substances were capped in 1985.
The delay between that action in 1985 and the current survey was caused primarily by the fact that the Marines didn’t think the contaminated water posed a serious health threat, Butler said. “We’re talking about very low levels here, in parts per billion, and we did alert the local population at the time,” he said.
The court case upon which the movie “A Civil Action” was based prompted the ATSDR to review other cases around the country where similar chemicals had contaminated drinking water, Butler said. Before the survey was initiated, the Marines used their own records to try to contact people who might have been affected. But they could not reach enough of them to do a scientific study. Camp Lejeune is the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast.
While the Marines have received many calls since the November announcement, they still have not achieved sufficient participation in the survey. To be successful, they hope to reach at least 80% of the estimated 16,500 eligible individuals. To date, they still need to reach 3,000 people, Butler said. The 16,500 people being sought include not only children who were born at the base but also those who were conceived at Camp Lejeune and born elsewhere.
Butler said he could not comment on whether any health problems had surfaced yet because information is still being collected to determine if a correlation exists with the contaminated water. Some of the calls coming in have been from attorneys, he noted.
“We don’t have a cause and effect right now,” Butler said. “We’re just doing a survey.”
The Marine Corps is fully supporting and assisting ATSDR in reaching these former Camp Lejeune residents. If you or someone you know were pregnant and lived at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985, you are encouraged to participate in this survey whether or not a child has exhibited any adverse health symptoms.
To participate, persons should call the National Opinion Research Center at 800/639-4270. It may take up to a week to get a return call. Also, norc can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]
For more general information about the survey, call ATSDR at 888/422-8737, ext. 5132. The Marine Corps has established a toll-free number at 877/261-9782. Information can also be found on the following Web pages: www.lejeune.usmc.mil/water/watersurvey.htm; www.usmc.mil/camlejwatersurvey; and www.ATSDR.cdc.gov.