It doesn’t take a doctoral degree in science to know that a survey of two Superfund sites thousands of miles from each other may show higher incidence of cancer and other diseases than found in the general population.
Yet, that is exactly what the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry, aka ATSDR, plans in a health survey of a group from Camp Lejeune and a comparison group from Camp Pendleton.
The health survey is apparently intended to answer the basic question whether rates of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems are higher among Lejeune residents than they should be. Put another way – are they high enough to justify giving them medical benefits and disability when they are too sick to work as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.
WHO’S FUNDING THE HEALTH SURVEY? THE USUAL PRACTICE IS THAT ATSDR OBTAINS APPROVAL FROM THE NAVY FOR ITS ANNUAL WORK PLAN WITH THE FUNDING COMING DIRECTLY FROM THE NAVY. IT’S NOT INCONCEIVABLE THAT THE NAVY IS FUNDING THE LEJEUNE/PENDLETON HEALTH SURVEY AND COULD HAVE PRESSURED ATSDR TO INCLUDE PENDLETON AS THE COMPARISON GROUP. IN ANY CASE, THE INCLUSION OF SUPERFUND PENDLETON IS QUESTIONABLE AT BEST.
Using national rates would prove that being at Lejeune was hazardous. That would cost the feds hundreds of millions in medical benefits and disability coverage.
The alternative – call in ATSDR – the agency famous for finding nothing is wrong. Just ask Congress.
If you’re getting the sense that ATSDR should look at the available national statistics and drop the idea of comparing a Camp Lejeune group to a comparable one at Camp Pendleton, you’re got the idea.
One national known toxicologist, who asked not to be identified, told me that the study can only find out if the people who spent time at Lejeune have worse health problems in some specific areas of health than people who were at other contaminated bases. Sounds to me like it’s designed to say, “Hey, you’re no worse off than others in the service, so stop complaining.”
I hope the public will find this unacceptable – that they will stand up and fight for veterans and their families. The tables are turned now and they need our help. It’s the right thing to do. We will get a government no better than the one we demand.
The good news is that while ATSDR is processing their health survey, two bills (one in the House and the other in the Senate) are working their way through the legislative process. S. 277: Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011, is sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R, NC) while HR 1742, The Janey Ensminger Act, is sponsored by Representative Brad Miller (D, NC). Both bills would provide medical care through the VA for veterans and their dependents (but not civilian employees).