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Marines Seek Lejeune Residents for Health Survey

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2000 – If your children were conceived or born at Camp Lejeune anytime between 1968 and 1985, the Marine Corps needs you to participate in an environmental health survey.

Marine officials said they are trying to reach about 10,000 former residents to participate in the survey. They have already contacted 6,500 people.

The Marines are working with the U.S. Public Health Service's Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to determine if low-level exposure to two cleaning compounds -- tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene -- can cause certain health concerns in children.

"There have been several studies that have looked at the health effects of these two chemicals on unborn children and have been linked to specific birth defects and childhood cancers, such as leukemia," said Dr. Wendy Kaye, chief of epidemiology and surveillance at the agency.

Officials determined the two chemicals were present in drinking water on base from 1968 to 1985. One came from an off-base dry cleaners. The other chemical came from run-off associated with the Camp Lejeune industrial area.

Marine officials said they discovered the chemicals in the water supply in the early 1980s. "The testing indicated we might have a quality concern with the water from both the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water distribution systems," said Marine Col. Michael Lehnert, head of Marine Corps Facilities and Services Division.

"When we confirmed the contamination of the water, we took the necessary steps to close the wells and notified the appropriate authorities," he said. "News of the situation and what the Corps was doing to guarantee quality water for the residents was carried in the base paper and the local media."

The Marines capped the wells in 1985. No federal or state laws were violated and no health effects were known from the chemicals.

However, in 1997 an ATSDR study in Woburn, Mass. showed health effects from high levels of these chemicals. Because of that study, scientists wanted to see what the effects were from low-levels of contaminants. The ATSDR scientists came to the Marine Corps to continue their study.

"We are estimating that there were between -- about 16,500 children born or conceived at Camp Lejeune who lived in base housing between 1968-1985," Kaye said.

All families whose children were born or conceived at Camp Lejeune from 1968 through 1985 are encouraged to participate in this survey, whether or not the child has exhibited any health concerns, Marine officials said. To participate, call the National Opinion Research Center at (800) 639-4270. NORC is conducting the survey for the ATSDR.

For more information about the ongoing study, call the ATSDR at (888) 42-ATSDR, extension 5132. The Marine Corps has also established a toll free number at (877) 261-9782 and a website, http://www.usmc.mil, for general information.

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