|Thursday, November 02, 2000
US marines seek families in Lejeune water case
WASHINGTON, Nov 01 (Reuters) - The US Marine Corps said on Wednesday it was trying to notify an estimated 10,000 families who lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between 1968 and 1985 that they may have been exposed to water contaminated with compounds linked to childhood cancers and birth defects.
Marine Corps officials told a Pentagon news conference that the substances, believed to have come from a dry cleaning business, were found in 1982 in drinking water systems that supplied houses on the sprawling marine base.
The wells were capped in 1985, but the government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry published a report in 1998 identifying a potential link between the contaminated water and birth defects.
That report was based on a sampling of Camp Lejeune families, and the agency last year began notifying previous residents of the base to survey their health histories.
Only about 6,500 of the 16,500 families that may have been exposed to the contaminated water have been reached to date.
Marine officials said they have set up a toll-free telephone number (800-639-4270) for families to contact the corps regarding the potential problem.
Col. Michael Lehnert, a Marine Corps spokesman, told reporters that some families who had lived in base housing had raised serious questions about their children's health because of the drinking water problems.
He said he did not know why the Marine Corps waited so long to address what he called a "valid concern," including the suspected link between the compounds in question and childhood leukemia.
The contaminants involved were tetrachloroethylene (PCE), also known as perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene (TCE). Both are commonly used in dry cleaning and in industrial processes.
The Marine Corps and government want to survey the 10,000 families that have not been reached and to conduct a health study based on the results to learn more about the problem at the base.