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Articles Tagged with TCE

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.

los-angeles-231612_1920.jpgIt’s such a compelling story: A 10-years-in-the-making plan to pour $1 billion into the redevelopment of Jordan Downs, a once-dangerous, crime-ridden public housing project in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, that had been the stage for nationally-televised riots in the 1960s. The idea is to convert what had been 700 badly scarred public housing units into a beautiful, mixed-income neighborhood of 1,400 units, shops, and park space. A real monument to progress and understanding.

But as the re-development was being launched, a plume of TCE contamination was discovered under the development, threatening, according to the Physicians for Social Responsibility, the health of children and pregnant mothers who would live there.

Now what? A billion dollars is on the line.

For the last 17 years, I and a team of lawyers have been representing families threatened by TCE contamination in their water supply, in the groundwater underneath their homes, and in the air inside their homes (called “vapor intrusion”). Recent reports in the media, unfortunately, describe how TCE, disposed of years ago in Nonantum, Massachusetts has seeped into the groundwater about 60 feet below the surface, and, after turning into a gas (‘vapor”), has risen back up through the soil and intruded into the breathing space of area homes.

Having known many hundreds of families over the years who were horrified to receive such news about TCE contamination in their homes and communities, my heart goes out to the families of Nonantum. I know many of them are scared- “What can this chemical do to me and my family?” they will ask. They have important questions that deserve answers such as: “How long has this contamination been in my neighborhood, and in my home, and who is responsible?” And they might well be angry- “Why didn’t someone in government protect us from this, or at least warn us that this could happen?”

With exactly these anxieties in mind, I want to provide some information to the people of Nonantum who are dealing with this, so they might understand what is going on, and how better to protect themselves. Here are some important things I have learned over the years:

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