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Marines opens Camp LeJeune investigation

WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) -- The Marine Corps Wednesday created a panel to investigate decisions made in closing polluted drinking water wells at Camp LeJeune, N.C., from 1980 to 1985.

Contaminated drinking water may have caused birth defects and childhood cancers in children born to mothers at the Marine Corps base between 1968 and 1985, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The wells were first discovered to be contaminated during routine testing in 1982. All polluted wells were shut down by 1985.

The panel will include former Congressman Ronald Packard of California; former Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Richard Hearney, and former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Robert Pirie Jr.

A CDC survey of 12,600 children born to mothers pregnant on base during the 17 year period found 103 specific childhood cancers and birth defects. The CDC opened an investigation into the possible link to drinking water, a study that will be completed in 2006.

The children variously suffered from anencephaly, spina bifida, cleft lip, cleft palate, childhood leukemia or childhood lymphoma.

The contaminated wells were found to contain two compounds -- trichloroethylene, which is generally used to degrease metal parts, and tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene, a dry-cleaning solvent.

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