The Department of Defense today announced that Marine Corps officials are trying to reach about 10,000 former residents of on-base housing at Camp Lejeune, N.C. who may have been exposed to contaminants in the water supply prior to 1985.
The effort is being made in support of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health service agency. ATSDR is attempting to survey previous on-base housing residents to determine if exposure to drinking water may be related to specific health concerns in children that were conceived during the time of exposure. The survey, which began in September 1999, is seeking parents of those children born or conceived while living at base family housing at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985.
"The health and welfare of Marines and their families is very important to us," said Col. Mike Lehnert, head of the Marine Corps' Facilities and Services Division. "We have Marine families with questions that cannot be answered unless the survey is completed, so it is very important to us that we do everything possible to help ATSDR reach as many of the former residents as we can."
Lehnert added that it is important for all individuals who qualify for the survey to participate, whether or not their children have experienced any health concerns.
Depending on the results of the survey, the ATSDR may conduct a health study to enhance scientific understanding of the health risks associated with exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the water supply. It is now known that VOCs were present in base water distribution systems that provided water to on-base housing.
The survey focuses on two specific VOCs, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), also called perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene (TCE), often used in dry cleaning or as degreasers. Those substances were found in the Camp Lejeune water systems that supplied the on-base housing areas prior to 1985.
All of the wells containing VOCs were shut down by early 1985. Currently, all drinking water at Camp Lejeune is regularly tested and is safe to drink.
For the past year, ATSDR and Camp Lejeune officials have been trying to contact the former residents using a combination of methods including direct mail, news releases around military bases, notices in military publications, and open houses. To date, more than 6,500 former residents have been contacted; however, a significant number of former residents have not yet been located. In an effort to extend the search for potential survey participants, Marine Corps officials in Washington are asking national news organizations to assist them in locating these former Camp Lejeune residents and their families.
The 35-question health survey is conducted by telephone and attempts to gather data which may be used in a follow-up scientific research study about the effects that these substances may have on children when exposed before birth.
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. To participate, call the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) 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. All media queries should be directed to Capt. Steve Butler, Headquarters Marine Corps at (703) 614-2019.