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Feb-20-2014 10:31printcomments

New Study: Toxic Water on Marine Bases Responsible for Thousands of Deaths

Evaluation of mortality among marines and navy personnel exposed to contaminated drinking water at USMC base camp Lejeune: a retrospective cohort study

Retired Marine Jerry Ensminger
Retired Marine Jerry Ensminger brought the Camp Lejeune water fiasco to light after his daughter died from cancer.

(CAMP LEJEUNE, NC) - Two drinking water systems at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were contaminated with solvents during 1950s-1985.


We conducted a retrospective cohort mortality study of Marine and Naval personnel who began service during 1975-1985 and were stationed at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton, California during this period. Camp Pendleton's drinking water was uncontaminated. Mortality follow-up was 1979-2008. Standardized Mortality Ratios were calculated using U.S. mortality rates as reference. We used survival analysis to compare mortality rates between Camp Lejeune (N = 154,932) and Camp Pendleton (N = 154,969) cohorts and assess effects of cumulative exposures to contaminants within the Camp Lejeune cohort. Models estimated monthly contaminant levels at residences. Confidence intervals (CIs) indicated precision of effect estimates.


There were 8,964 and 9,365 deaths respectively, in the Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton cohorts. Compared to Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune had elevated mortality hazard ratios (HRs) for all cancers (HR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.20), kidney cancer (HR = 1.35, 95% CI: 0.84, 2.16), liver cancer (HR = 1.42, 95% CI: 0.92, 2.20), esophageal cancer (HR = 1.43 95% CI: 0.85, 2.38), cervical cancer (HR = 1.33, 95% CI:0.24, 7.32), Hodgkin lymphoma (HR = 1.47, 95% CI: 0.71, 3.06), and multiple myeloma (HR = 1.68, 95% CI: 0.76, 3.72). Within the Camp Lejeune cohort, monotonic categorical cumulative exposure trends were observed for kidney cancer and total contaminants (HR, high cumulative exposure = 1.54, 95% CI: 0.63, 3.75; log10 beta = 0.06, 95% CI: -0.05, 0.17), Hodgkin lymphoma and trichloroethylene (HR, high cumulative exposure = 1.97, 95% CI: 0.55, 7.03; beta = 0.00005, 95% CI: -0.00003, 0.00013) and benzene (HR, high cumulative exposure = 1.94, 95% CI: 0.54, 6.95; beta = 0.00203, 95% CI: -0.00339, 0.00745). Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) had HR = 2.21 (95% CI: 0.71, 6.86) at high cumulative vinyl chloride exposure but a non-monotonic exposure-response relationship (beta = 0.0011, 95%CI: 0.0002, 0.0020).


The study found elevated HRs at Camp Lejeune for several causes of death including cancers of the kidney, liver, esophagus, cervix, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma and ALS. CIs were wide for most HRs. Because <6% of the cohort had died, long-term follow-up would be necessary to comprehensively assess effects of drinking water exposures at the base.

The complete article is available as a PDF download', 'Provisional bottom abstract link', '$url_domain', 1, true]);">provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Frank J Bove, Perri Zeitz Ruckart, Morris Maslia and Theodore C Larson



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