Thursday, March 21, 2013

Contamination Study May Extend Veteran Benefits


By: Nathan lamb

A recent study has shed new light on long-standing water contamination issues at a North Carolina military base—and that could help veterans claiming adverse health impacts from their time at that post.

The study indicates that drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune had elevated levels of carcinogens for more than 60 years, according to this story from the Kansas City Star.

At peak levels, the contaminants were 150 times higher than safety standards—and the report estimated up to one million service personnel and their families may have been exposed while at the base.

A special law enacted in 2012 provides screening and health care for those at the base from 1957 to when the contaminated wells were closed in 1987—but the study suggests the problem could date back far as 1948.

Federal lawmakers are calling for additional hearings on the issue and a bill has been filed to extend coverage back to 1953, which is thought to be when the contamination first exceeded health standards, according to this story from the Washington Post.

The contaminants include trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial degreaser that can cause a variety of short- and long-term health impacts. The other contaminants were from dry-cleaning and fuel, according to the Marine Corps, which as recently as last year claimed there was insufficient evidence to link health problems to the drinking water.

Retired Marine Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger has long alleged the connection between the camp water and health impacts. He was stationed at Lejeune and lost his 9-year-old daughter to a rare leukemia in 1985. Ensminger credited advocates like himself for bringing the issue to light.

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