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Articles Tagged with PCE

Camp-LejeuneA United States Marine Corps base in Onslow County, North Carolina was the site of “the worst example of water contamination this country has ever seen.” Camp Lejeune is the second largest Marine base in the United States. Marines and their families lived on base for short periods of time learning necessary skills, since it was an amphibious training base. Then, they would leave to be stationed elsewhere. Little did they know that they were being exposed to toxic water in their temporary homes.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated drinking water from multiple sites on base. For instance, prior to 1986, water coming from two treatment plants—Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point—contained volatile organic compounds. The contamination primarily included perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), dichloroethylene (DCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene. Throughout the base, the drinking water contained toxic chemicals at levels 240 to 3,400 times higher than what safety standards permit.

And, the result of the exposure to those contaminants was tragic. Drinking that contaminated water likely increased victims’ risk of multiple types of cancer, including leukemia, breast cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It also put victims at risk for other diseases and negative health effects, including Parkinson’s disease and miscarriages.

If you have reason to research how chemicals can harm your family-say, for example, your water supply has been found to be contaminated-please be careful. There is a lot of “information” available on the internet, but not all of it is reliable. In the unreliable category are studies performed or funded by the companies who manufacture those chemicals, or use them in their industrial processes. They have hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars to gain by convincing us that their chemicals are safe. And while this extraordinary financial stake does not necessarily make their research false, common sense tells us that it may well cause them to resolve the scientific grey areas in favor of the conclusion that chemicals are safe, or not as dangerous as perhaps they truly are. That alone should cause you to look elsewhere for information to which you can trust your family’s health.

Who should you trust?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for one. NRDC is a non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers, and other professionals who approach health and environmental issues from the people’s point of view. They take no money from polluters and others who might want to minimize environmental dangers to human beings. They advocate for those things that protect people, and insist that all doubts about, say, whether a chemical is dangerous, be resolved in favor of protecting human life and health, unless and until the doubts can be conclusively resolved to prove such protection unnecessary.

Yet another case of toxic vapors invading homes through the process of vapor intrusion came to light recently in Madison, Wisconsin, where families were told that the air in their homes has been polluted with carcinogenic chemicals from the nearby Madison-Kipp manufacturing plant. PCE, a dangerous cleaning solvent which was allegedly disposed of decades ago, and supposedly cleaned up, is now showing up in homes near the plant property. Some of the homes have been fitted with vapor sucking devices designed to pull the polluted vapors out from under the homes to prevent contamination of the air inside.  The families, many of whom have young children, are being told that the dumping of the harmful chemical took place “decades ago”, that the levels are “slightly” elevated, and that the problem is just a “potential concern”.  But, nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth is that the company claims to have stopped using the chemical more than 25 years ago and also claims to have cleaned up its property.  Very few homes have been tested. The extent of the problem has not been determined.  The levels which have been detected are many times higher than the levels considered safe by many regulatory agencies. The truth about these vapor intrusion problems can be sobering.  Often times we see exactly what has happened here.  The company claims to have stopped using the chemical and claims to have cleaned its property.  But, these chemicals typically contaminate the groundwater under the factory and move with it off the plant property under nearby homes.  The water then off-gases these dangerous chemicals into the homes sitting on top of the contaminated water.  The fumes are odorless, so the people living in the homes have no idea they are there.  And, unlike then problem presented by polluted tap water which exposes people when they ingest it or bathe in it, people are exposed to these chemicals 24/7…even when they sleep. Unless, and until, the contaminated water is cleaned, these families will remain in harms way.  It goes without saying that even a home fitted with one of these vapor-sucking contraptions will be difficult, if not impossible, to sell.  The American dream of those families becomes a nightmare.

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