RALEIGH, N.C. - A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Centers for Disease Control to complete a new, comprehensive report on the health effects of toxic tap water at the Camp Lejeune Marine base.
The lawmakers also want the agency to investigate whether people were exposed to airborne toxins inside buildings after contaminated wells at the North Carolina base were closed in 1985. And they asked the agency to look into the feasibility of a "cancer incidence study" for Lejeune.
The four senators and two representatives were reacting to news that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, a division of the CDC, intends to issue a less comprehensive report than the one it released in 1997. The original public health assessment was withdrawn four years ago because of incomplete data.
They said they also are concerned the agency will ignore "the potential for harmful exposures via inhalation" in the decade and a half after contaminated wells at the coastal North Carolina base were taken off line.
"Public Health Assessments are essential and critical to ensuring full and complete information about exposures to hazardous substances is available to the public," the six legislators - U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan of North Carolina; Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson of Florida; and U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross of Florida and John Dingell of Michigan - wrote to CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden on Aug. 9.
"This is especially necessary in the instance of Camp Lejeune, where hundreds of thousands of unwitting military service members and their families were exposed to extremely high levels of known human carcinogens over a span of more than three decades."
Officials from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry have not responded to requests for comment.
In a website note January 2011, the agency said it had withdrawn the 1997 report because "additional information has emerged" and affected communities "were exposed to contaminated water for a longer period than we used in the 1997 evaluation."
As many as 1 million Marines, dependents and civilian workers are believed to have been exposed to trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and other toxic chemicals that leeched into ground water. The lawmakers indicated that a simple addendum to the agency's original report would not be sufficient, however.
"We expect you will ensure ATSDR continues to fulfill its Congressional mandate to 'expand the knowledge base about health effects from exposure to hazardous substances,'" they noted, "and that you will do so by re-issuing a Public Health Assessment" as required by law.
The lawmakers gave Frieden until Aug. 26 to respond.