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CDC: Camp Lejeune water linked to birth defects

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -

A federal agency confirms the health risks of tainted tap water at one of our local military bases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say contaminated water decades ago at Camp Lejeune increased people's risk of having children with birth defects and childhood cancer.
     
The agency released a study Thursday that surveyed the parents of more than 12,000 children born at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985. Chemical leaks from a fuel depot and dry cleaner contaminated the water during those years.

Former Camp Lejeune Marines say the study confirms what they already knew.

"I'm glad they finally came forward and admitted it is true and there was water contamination which has probably caused many deaths and deformities in life," said Karen Hacker, former Camp Lejeune Marine.

The study says babies born to moms who drank the water while pregnant were four times more likely to have serious birth defects like spinal bifida. Children whose parents were exposed had a higher risk of childhood cancers like leukemia.

"It should have been done a long time ago but at least it's out in the open," said Robert Leclair, a former Camp Lejeune Marine and Vietnam veteran.

President Barack Obama signed a bill last year aimed at helping people like Leclair who were exposed to the water between 1957 and 1987.

"My three kids were born in Camp Lejeune during that period and they've all had health problems and I don't know if it's associated with that or not," said Leclair.

Hacker, who works for chapter 40 of the Disabled American Veterans, was stationed at Camp Lejeune during the late 1980s, but the based had already closed the contaminated wells by then. She says she has helped dozens of people file claims with Veterans Affairs if they believe they got sick from the water.

But she says the red tape is holding some of the claims up. She hopes the CDC study gets the ball rolling.

"Hopefully that it means they'll have a way to get into the VA and get it approved now that it's an official documentation," said Hacker.

Leclair says he'll never know whether the tainted water caused his kids' kidney and fertility problems.

But he says what's more important is knowing who's responsible for the tainted water and making sure it doesn't happen again.

Camp Lejeune officials would not comment on the story. They referred all questions to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) in Virginia.

Capt Maureen Krebs, public affairs officer with HQMC, released the following statement: "Since 1991, the Marine Corps has supported scientific and public health organizations that are studying this important issue. These results provide additional information in support of ongoing efforts to provide comprehensive science-based answers to the health questions that have been raised."

The statement continued: "The Marine Corps continues to support these initiatives and we are working diligently to identify and notify individuals who, in the past, may have been exposed to the chemicals in drinking water."

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