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Man Raised at Camp Lejuene Blames Tainted Water for Cancer

Oct 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Cancer seems to be everywhere, and breast cancer is certainly always making news. Now a man raised at a Marine base has advised lawmakers that his breast cancer is a result of contaminated Camp Lejeune water, said CNN. Data indicates that less than 2,000 men each year are diagnosed with breast cancer, noted CNN.

Michael Partain (41) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and, speaking to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, pointed out that his parents were stationed at the Marine training base in North Carolina when he was born. No less than 40 more U.S. Marines or sons of Marines who lived at the Marine base have been diagnosed with the cancer that is considered relatively rare in men, said CNN.

Partain said that when his mother was pregnant with him, his family was subjected to high levels of tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, dichloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride in Camp Lejeune’s tap water wrote CNN. "I am one of about 40 men who share this unique commonality of male breast cancer and exposure to contaminated tap water [at] Camp Lejeune," he told the Senate committee, quoted CNN. Partain said his illness has been a "traumatic, emotional and physical" ordeal for his family, reported CNN.

The committee hearing looked at military personnel exposure to hazardous materials in this country as well as in Japan and Iraq, reported CNN. Among areas of concern are toxic smoke from Iraqi burn pits and contaminated water, added CNN. The men diagnosed with the cancer either lived or served at the camp between the 1960s and 1980s, said CNN, which pointed out that, according to government records, Camp Lejueune’s water was contaminated for some 30 years.

The Marine Corps argues that no link has been made between the contaminated water and the resultant diseases, said CNN. Regardless, Richard Burr (Senator—North Carolina), the ranking Republican on the committee, along with Kay Hagan (Democratic Senator—North Carolina) are seeking legislation to mandate that the Department of Veterans Affairs pay medical costs for Marines and their families exposed to the contaminated Camp Lejeune water. To date, the provision has passed the Senate and will amend the Navy from "disposing of water-contamination claims before critical scientific studies can be completed," quoted CNN.

According to MyFoxDC, the Camp's water was contaminated from 1957 to 1987 by a TCE, which is a degreasing solvent and PCE, a component used in dry cleaning. The government describes both TCE and PCE as possible carcinogens, said MyFoxDC, which noted that the water was likely tainted by a dry cleaner located next to the camp and so-called industrial activities that took place at Camp Lejeune.

Since it began its investigation in 2001 of the water at the Marine base, links have turned up between the chemically contaminated water and some cancers, said Fox.

According to CNN, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is conducting also tests to determine if the toxic water is linked to the health issues. Some water appears to have been toxically contaminated at significantly high concentrations, up to 280 times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe, said CNN.

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