The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study confirming a long-suspected link between the chemical contaminants in the tap water at Camp Lejeune military base and serious birth defects.
The Study, released by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, surveyed the parents of over 12,500 children born at Camp Lejeune between the years 1968 and 1985. Researchers found that babies born to mothers who drank the tap water while pregnant were four times as likely to have serious birth defects, like Spina Bifida, than babies born to mothers who did not drink the tap water. They were also found to have a slightly higher risk for childhood cancers, like leukemia. The study, similar to ones used to investigate possible reasons for disease outbreaks, relied on models and therefore was unable to determine how much of the tainted tap water those surveyed consumed. While researchers did not look at the health effects of adults who drank the tap water, more than 80 men with Camp Lejeune ties have been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of breast cancer.
This study contradicts the longstanding position of the military which has issued public statements downplaying the health risks for decades. After decades of extensive testing, the most contaminated wells were closed in 1984 and 1985 after dangerous concentrations of toxins associated with degreasing solvents and gasoline. A prior CDC study cited a February 1985 level of trichloroethylene of 18,400 parts per billion in one drinking well – nearly 4,000 times today’s maximum allowed health limit. In previous studies the contamination was traced to several possible sources including on-base leaking storage tanks, industrial spills, a leaky fuel depot and an off-base nearby dry cleaner.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Camp Lejeune Veterans and Family Act to provide medical care and screening for the Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune and eligible family members. The Act requires health care for one or more 15 specified illnesses or conditions, including female infertility, miscarriage, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and bladder, breast, esophageal, kidney and lung cancers.