by Lisa Sorg
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, known as the ATSDR, has withdrawn its 1997 public health assessment of Camp Lejeune and its drinking water because, according to the agency, "it could no longer stand behind the accuracy of the information concerning the drinking water exposure pathway evaluation."
The alert came via a press release from U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, who chairs of the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Miller called for the agency to review those other health assessments and withdraw those that could not stand up to a rigorous scientific review.
The ATSDR is a sister agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Camp Lejeune community activists have long contended ATSDR's 1997 study was flawed. That study found that residents' exposure to detected levels of toxic chemicals including benzene, PCE (perchloroethylene) and TCE (trichloroethylene) weren't hazardous. However, in a Investigations Subcommittee report, it was learned that ATSDR has lost many of the critical scientific documents and data it used to reach its conclusions. (Depending on the length of time and the degree of the exposure, high levels of these chemicals can cause respiratory and neurological illness; some studies have suggested there is a link to cancer.)
The ATSDR is often called in to make health and exposure assessments at sites where there is suspected or confirmed contamination. One local example is Ward Transformer , a Superfund site in western Wake County. wardtransformer031405-nc
In many cases nationwide, the ATSDR's conclusions have been suspect. The agency was most recently responsible for failing to evaluate the dangers of formaldehyde in trailers for Hurricane Katrina survivors. There have also been questions about the validity of ATSDR reports on Superfund sites in San Antonio, Texas and Bloomington, Ind.
Read the Investigations subcommittee report about the integrity of other ATSDR studies: atsdr-staff-report-03-10-09
Here is a link to public health assessments the ATSDR has conducted in North Carolina.