WASHINGTON -- Evidence exists that people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune Marine Base in North Carolina between the 1950s and 1985 were exposed to the industrial solvents tricholorethylene (TCE) or perchloroethylene (PCE) in their water supply, but strong scientific evidence is not available to determine whether health problems among those exposed are due to the contaminants, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report adds that further research will unlikely provide definitive information on whether exposure resulted in adverse health effects in most cases. Therefore, policy changes or administrative actions to address and resolve the concerns associated with the exposures should not be deferred pending new or potential health studies.
"Even with scientific advances, the complex nature of the Camp Lejeune contamination and the limited data on the concentrations in water supplies allow for only crude estimates of exposure," said David Savitz, chair of the committee that wrote the report and professor in the department of community and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City. "Therefore, the committee could not determine reliably whether diseases and disorders experienced by former residents and workers at Camp Lejeune are associated with their exposure to the contaminated water supply."
In the early 1980s, two water-supply systems, Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point, on Camp Lejeune were found to be contaminated with various toxic industrial solvents, including PCE -- which entered the groundwater as a result of spills and improper disposal practices by an off-base dry cleaner -- and TCE from on-base spills and leaks from underground storage equipment. Considerable public controversy grew over the potential health consequences, such as various cancers, for former residents. To supplement the few studies that have been performed and to help inform decisions about addressing health claims
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National Academy of Sciences