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Male Breast Cancer Linked to Contaminated Water at Marine Training Camp?

October 14, 2009

I watched the news for a minute last night, and was horrified by the lead segment: contaminated water at North Caroline’s Camp Lejeune from the 1960s through the 1980s is thought to be the cause of an astonishing number of male breast cancer cases. At least 40 former Marines or children of Marines that lived at Camp Lejeune have been found to have this cancer that usually only strikes around 2,000 men a year. CNN states:

Among the chemicals later identified in the drinking water were trichloroethylene, a degreaser; benzene; and the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene. Two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps.

For me, the worst part is that they’re unable to establish a link between the contaminated water and the unusually high incidences of cancer (though further studies are underway). Who knew that the greatest threat these Marines would face would be something as seemingly innocuous as water?

And where are these chemicals coming from? De-greasers, solvents used in dry cleaning – these chemicals don’t naturally appear, they are products of our lifestyles.

An article from CNN speaks to other environmental dangers military personnel face during war. One example they point to was a water treatment plant in Basra, Iraq which military personnel found coated in orange dust, which they were told was simply a mild irritant, nothing to worry too much about. It was later found to be sodium dichromate, a known carcinogen.

sodium dichromate

sodium dichromate

Another incident of burn pits used to burn toxic chemicals (as much as 500,000 lbs a day) resulted in at least one known case of leukemia and subsequent death.

Exposure to chemicals and toxins whether in the U.S. or abroad is having devastating effects on the men and women that are fighting these wars. The death toll is now not only affected by combat, but by environmental degradation and destruction, as well.

image via wikimedia commons

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