Archives for category: Trichloroethylene

From Huffington Post:

The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”

More.

From Orlando Sentinel:

More than three dozen former factory workers have settled their multimillion-dollar five-year legal battle against Siemens Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. over toxins they allege the companies carelessly dumped into drinking water, causing them to develop cancer.

“I’m just glad it’s over with,” said Gladys Elder of Sanford, a 32-year employee at the plant at 400 Rinehart Road in Lake Mary that manufactured telecommunications equipment.

Elder, 70, developed kidney cancer a decade ago, and she, like dozens of others, accused the plant’s owners of making her sick by carelessly handling solvents.

Plant employees used toxins, including trichloroethene (TCE), to manufacture and clean circuit boards and other equipment.

In 2001, Siemens AG, the plant’s then-operator, ordered employees to stop drinking the water. That’s because it had discovered TCE, a chemical linked to cancer in laboratory animals and suspected of doing the same in humans, in the plant’s tap water.

Workers had used TCE from the time the plant opened in 1968 . . . according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Workers had poured the used solvent into 55-gallon drums that eventually became rusty and leaky and at times poured it down drains and sinks, according to the suit.

It then seeped into groundwater beneath the plant and was pumped back inside, where employees used it to wash their hands and brew coffee.

Before the plant closed in 2003, it was operated by five companies or business ventures, including United Technologies Corp., Marconi Communications Inc. and Siemens.

Each was a defendant in the suit.

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Many of the employee-plaintiffs died while the suit was pending, Elder said.

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From the BBC News:

Researchers found a six-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s in individuals exposed in the workplace to trichloroethylene (TCE).

Although many uses for TCE have been banned around the world, the chemical is still used as a degreasing agent.

The research was based on analysis of 99 pairs of twins selected from US data records.

Parkinson’s can result in limb tremors, slowed movement and speech impairment, but the exact cause of the disease is still unknown, and there is no cure.

Research to date suggests a mix of genetic and environmental factors may be responsible. A link has previously been made with pesticide use.

‘Significant association’

The researchers from institutes in the US, Canada, Germany and Argentina, wanted to examine the impact of solvent exposure – specifically six solvents including TCE.

They looked at 99 sets of twins, one twin with Parkinson’s, the other without.

Because twins are genetically very similar or identical and often share certain lifestyle characteristics, twins were thought to provide a better control group, reducing the likelihood of spurious results.

The twins were interviewed to build up a work history and calculate likely exposure to solvents. They were also asked about hobbies.

The findings are presented as the first study to report a “significant association” between TCE exposure and Parkinson’s and suggest exposure to the solvent was likely to result in a six-fold increase in the chances of developing the disease.

The study also adjudged exposure to two other solvents, perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), “tended towards significant risk of developing the disease”.

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TCE has been used in paints, glue, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and as a degreaser. It has been banned in the food and pharmaceutical industries in most regions of the world since the 1970s, due to concerns over its toxicity.

In 1997, the US authorities banned its use as an anaesthetic, skin disinfectant, grain fumigant and coffee decaffeinating agent, but it is still used as a degreasing agent for metal parts.

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From Los Angeles Times:

One of the most widespread groundwater contaminants in the nation is more dangerous to humans than earlier thought, a federal agency has determined, in a decision that could raise the cost of cleanups nationwide, including large areas of the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The final risk assessment for trichloroethylene by the Environmental Protection Agency found that the widely used industrial solvent causes kidney and liver cancer, lymphoma and other health problems. That lays the groundwork to reevaluate the federal drinking-water standard for the contaminant: 5 parts per billion in water, and 1 microgram per cubic meter in air, officials said.

Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of research and development, said toxicity values for TCE reported in the risk assessment released this week may be used to establish new cleanup strategies at 761 Superfund sites, as well as in aquifers supplying drinking water to millions of residents in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.

The risk assessment had been subject to more than a decade of delays. A 2001 draft assessment that suggested a strong link between TCE and cancer was opposed by the Defense Department, the Energy Department and NASA.

The Pentagon had demanded greater proof that industrial substances cause cancer before raising cleanup costs at more than 1,000 polluted sites.

“This risk assessment is a big deal because it will strengthen protections for people who live and work above TCE plumes — and there are a lot of them — and could force serious rethinking about the extent of cleanup efforts,” said Lenny Siegal, executive director of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, which posted a letter Monday signed by activists across the country, demanding that the final risk assessment be released. It was released Wednesday.

Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the decision “launches new arguments about what the safety standards should be. In the meantime, people impacted by this pollution can now link their disease to it in litigation with more confidence because the science is no longer in dispute. TCE causes cancer.”

TCE has been discovered in nearly every state but in none more widely than California. Military bases including Camp Pendleton and Edwards Air Force Base have Superfund sites with TCE contamination.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area overlies a checkerboard of underground plumes of TCE, and has high ambient levels of the chemical in the air. More than 30 square miles of the San Gabriel Valley lie in one of four Superfund sites that contain TCE. The San Fernando Valley overlies a large plume grouped into three separate Superfund sites. The former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Orange County sits over a plume several miles long.

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Photo by Jeremy Brooks.

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