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Chemicals LInked to Male Breast Cancers at Major US Marine Base


May 25, 2012
Lynne Peeples / The Huffington Post

Chemicals in Camp Lejeune's drinking water have been linked to increased levels of disease among former Camp Lejeune residents, including male breast cancer and childhood leukemia and the US Navy has reportedly asking government investigators to suppress information concerning the toxic water scandal at the Marine Corps' Camp.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/13/camp-lejeune-water-contamination-navy-letter_n_1203465.html

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Cover-Up Hinted In Navy Letter
Lynne Peeples / The Huffington Post

CHARLOTTE (January 13, 2012) -- The US Navy is asking government investigators to suppress information concerning the toxic water scandal at the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune, according to a letter obtained Thursday by The Huffington Post.

The letter, signed by Maj. Gen. J.A. Kessler of the Marine Corps and dated Jan. 5, 2012, asks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to withhold from a forthcoming report details about the whereabouts of water lines, wells, treatment plants and storage tanks on the North Carolina military base -- in the name of national security.

"The Marine Corps understands the need to share information with the scientific community," writes Kessler, the Marines' assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics. "Prudence requires, however, that information sharing be within the rubric of responsible force protection."

Government watchdogs and environmental advocates said they interpret the letter as further evidence of a Navy effort to evade culpability for what many call the worst and largest drinking water contamination in US history.

Congress assigned the disease registry to trace when, where and at what levels Camp Lejeune's drinking water was tainted with toxic industrial chemicals from the late-1950s to the 1980s. The research is a prerequisite for a series of health studies exploring links between chemical exposures and what appears to be increased levels of disease among former Camp Lejeune residents, including male breast cancer and childhood leukemia.

As part of its research, the disease registry must map the entire water system on the base, past and present. And for the findings to be credible, the registry must release all of the information, so other scientists can review or replicate the results. The Navy's pressure could stymie that effort.

"This is exactly what happens when you have one federal agency investigating another," said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, the central character of a new documentary, "Semper Fi: Always Faithful," which tells the Camp Lejeune contamination story.

Ensminger added that the information the Navy seeks to suppress has been in the public domain for decades, including in print materials distributed by the Marines. "Anyone with Google Earth can zoom in on Camp Lejeune and see those red and white checkered tanks popping out of the housing areas," said Ensminger, who lost his 9-year-old daughter Janey to a rare type of leukemia. Janey was conceived at Camp Lejeune.

Ensminger and other advocates said they are concerned that the letter represents another maneuver by the Navy to cover up its actions and inactions, and to delay justice for the estimated 1 million Marines and family members who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune over 30-odd years.

As the documentary explains, base officials received multiple warnings from 1980 to 1984 that tests of the drinking water showed toxic chemicals including the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), and the fuel additive benzene. Yet the first contaminated well wasn't closed until late-1984, when the co-owner of an outside lab that had conducted three of those tests notified North Carolina environmental officials. By the end of 1985, 10 more contaminated wells had been closed.

The Marine Corps denies any delay or wrongdoing. TCE, a metal degreaser, and PCE, a dry-cleaning solvent, were unregulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act when they were discovered in water, Capt. Kendra N. Hardesty, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, told HuffPost in an email.

"The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times," Hardesty added. "Base officials were confused and unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals."

Legislation is currently pending in the House and Senate that seeks to provide healthcare to Camp Lejeune residents suffering as a result of exposure to the contaminated drinking water. The Senate bill passed the Committee on Veterans' Affairs over the summer and awaits further action. Legislators are on the hunt for offsets to cover its $340 million price. The House version of the bill, named after Janey Ensminger, has yet to move out of committee.

For Richard Clapp, the Camp Lejeune controversy triggers a bit of deja vu. Decades ago, the cancer expert at the Boston University School of Public Health helped link well water contaminated with TCE and PCE to an unusual number of childhood leukemia cases in Woburn, Mass. -- a battle that became the basis of the book and movie, "A Civil Action."

He recalled his first thought when those same two chemicals "popped up" in the Camp Lejeune water: "Here we go again."

"The TCE levels found in the water there were way higher than in Woburn, or anywhere I’ve ever seen," said Clapp, who has also worked on studies of contamination at other military sites, including Upper Cape Cod. He now serves as an expert on the disease registry's Camp Lejeune community assistance panel.

"I'm retired now," Clapp added. "But I can't retire from this."

The story of Camp Lejeune echoes the town of Woburn's. But in Woburn, environmental advocates were pitted against industry opponents. Plaintiffs for the Camp Lejeune victims face a government agency -- often relying on other government agencies. "Semper Fi: Always Faithful" lacks big-name actors like John Travolta, though the film's real-life characters including Ensminger are nevertheless compelling.

"We had a lot of concerns about following people who were going up against the US Department of Defense," said Rachel Libert, the Oscar contender's director. "But these guys prove that an individual can make a difference."

She is also referring to Mike Partain, who was born and raised on Camp Lejeune and, at the age of 39, developed breast cancer. Partain has joined Ensminger in his crusade, helping to identify more than 70 other men with breast cancer who had lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the years of contamination.

Male breast cancer is very unusual," Devra Davis, president and founder of the consumer advocacy group Environmental Health Trust, told HuffPost. "It's a canary in the coal mine. There's no way in hell that you’d have as many cases as have reported thus far" by chance.

Tracking down all of the former residents of Camp Lejeune who may have gotten sick has been an extremely difficult. More cases will likely be uncovered by the Camp Lejeune health studies -- assuming the disease registry's water model produces the necessary data.

"Our biggest weakness is the fact that we are not concentrated at Camp Lejeune," Partain says in the film. "The people that were there were only there for a couple years and were gone. But as word of this gets out, that weakness becomes our strength, because we’re in every town across America."

Ensminger called Camp Lejeune the "tip of the iceberg." With over 130 contaminated military sites around the country, he said, "that makes the DOD the nation's largest polluter."

Libert said she understands this pervasiveness. "We have yet to be at a film screening in which there's not a local connection," she said, from a former resident of Camp Lejeune to a community member concerned about pollution at a nearby military base. "You start to realize just how big this problem is."

She said she hopes viewers of the film, available via streaming on Netflix and iTunes beginning Jan. 17, will take away that "there really needs to be more accountability over the Department of Defense and what they do to the environment here and abroad."

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act tightens the release of information that relates to so-called "critical infrastructure," that might be used by terrorists. Language introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) narrowed what Leahy called in a statement, "overbroad exemptions."

“Information that does not compromise security and is in the public interest should be brought to light. Indeed, withholding certain information can endanger the public -- as evidenced by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune," Rep. Maloney told The Huffington Post in an email.

The Navy letter to the disease registry "is completely ignoring the new law on the books," said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight. "The Navy, the department being investigated by the agency, is requesting that information be broadly withheld without specific authority under the law.

"This smacks of coercion," Canterbury added.



http://clclt.com/theclog/archives/2011/11/29/camp-lejeune-male-breast-cancer-rates-expected-to-rise
Camp Lejeune: Male breast cancer rates expected to rise
Rhiannon Fionn / The Clog

CHARLOTTE, (November 29, 2011) -- Will the bad news from Camp Lejeune ever end? Now, it seems, an inordinately high rate of breast cancer among males who lived on the base may soon spike.

In case you're not clued in, here's the summary: The water at Camp Lejeune, "the largest Marine Corps Base on the East Coast," according to its website, was contaminated for decades, and that contamination made people sick.

The US Environmental Protection agency alerted the base to its polluted drinking water problem back in the early 1980s. The problem started in the 1950s and stems from degreasers, dry cleaning solvents and an estimated 70 other chemicals being dumped near drinking water wells. Learn more at "The Few, The Proud, the Forgotten," a website created by Marines for Marines.

In 2009, the US Government finally stopped denying that water pollution on the base has caused grave illnesses in service members, their families and for others exposed to the tainted water. Last year, the US Navy agreed to fund a study, at the urging of a bipartisan group of senators including N.C. Republican Richard Burr and N.C. Democrat Kay Hagan — nearly 30 years after the EPA sounded the alarm.

Some of those health problems include — in children and adults — brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and the more than 70 instances of male breast cancer that, according to this report, may represent only a fraction of cases:

Mike Partain was startled two years ago when he tracked down nine former male residents of Camp Lejeune, N.C., who shared an exceedingly rare trait.

A breast cancer diagnosis.

Partain, who was born at the base in 1969 and is himself a breast cancer survivor, would eventually find 73 other men who lived at Lejeune, drank its polluted water and were diagnosed with the disease.

His list may soon get much, much longer.

Federal scientists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry confirmed last week that 184 male Marine Corps veterans with a history of breast cancer have been identified in Department of Veterans Affairs records.

...

Researchers are not done combing VA records — about 38 percent of the veterans on a VA cancer registry must still be checked. So that tally of 184 male breast cancer cases could substantially increase.

In addition, VA records would not reflect civilians, such as the family members of Marines who lived at Camp Lejeune.

In fact, about a dozen of the 73 people on Partain's list never served in the Corps.

Read the entire St. Petersburg Times article below.


http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/veterans/article1203436.ece
Hike in Camp Lejeune Male Breast Cancer Cases Expected
William R. Levesque / The Tampa Bay Times

(November 28, 2011) -- Mike Partain was startled two years ago when he tracked down nine former male residents of Camp Lejeune, N.C., who shared an exceedingly rare trait.

A breast cancer diagnosis.

Partain, who was born at the base in 1969 and is himself a breast cancer survivor, would eventually find 73 other men who lived at Lejeune, drank its polluted water and were diagnosed with the disease.

His list may soon get much, much longer.

Federal scientists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry confirmed last week that 184 male Marine Corps veterans with a history of breast cancer have been identified in Department of Veterans Affairs records.

More research is under way to see how many of those men have ties to the base, where drinking water was contaminated with carcinogens for 30 years ending in 1987.

But Lejeune is one of the Corps' two largest bases. And some members of a panel advising ATSDR on Lejeune believe as many as half of those 184 may have served at the base.

"How many men do you have to find with breast cancer to accept that the water poisoned us?" asked Partain, a Tallahassee insurance investigator who also serves on the advisory panel. "How many bodies do you have to stack up? People should be enraged by this."

Researchers are not done combing VA records — about 38 percent of the veterans on a VA cancer registry must still be checked. So that tally of 184 male breast cancer cases could substantially increase.

In addition, VA records would not reflect civilians, such as the family members of Marines who lived at Camp Lejeune.

In fact, about a dozen of the 73 people on Partain's list never served in the Corps.

ATSDR's deputy director, Dr. Tom Sinks, said the agency is assessing if a case control study should be launched to see if these breast cancer numbers are abnormally high.

Partain is certain they are, noting just one in 100,000 men is diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Marine Corps, however, maintains that no link has been established between the base's polluted water and any disease.

"The question of whether a connection exists has been raised, and it is important to try to answer it," said Capt. Kendra Hardesty, a Corps spokeswoman.

"We realize that some of our Marine family members have been diagnosed with severe diseases," she said. "Our hearts go out to them. … We continue to support ATSDR's ongoing" work.

Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist and member of ATSDR's advisory panel, said 40 percent or more was a plausible estimate as to how many of the 184 Marines might have ties to Lejeune.

"The case control study needs to be done," he said. "Then we'll have a better picture. Then we'll know."

ATSDR officials won't comment on the significance of the latest findings, saying more research is needed. In 2012, for example, the agency plans to release a mortality study that may show if Lejeune residents have died of a list of diseases, including breast cancer, at a higher rate than a control group at Camp Pendleton in California.

One thing ATSDR hopes to review is what other risk factors these veterans might have shared.

Partain, the son of a Marine officer, said he is disappointed that what he considers the largest male breast cancer cluster ever identified isn't getting more attention, especially in Congress.

But the Corps said these cases have not yet been verified as a cluster by scientists.

"We are not aware there is an actual cancer cluster," said Hardesty, the Corps spokeswoman.

Partain remains certain.

"At nine cases, this was incredible," he said. "At 29, it became an eyebrow-raiser. At 40, that was confirmation. Now it's 70 approaching 100 or more. To me, the public needs to take notice."

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.
Copyright 2011 Tampa Bay Times

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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