U.S. House Passes Camp Lejeune Compensation Bill

Dick Clapp
CHE Partner and  member of the ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel

This post is reprinted with permission of the author. The original post is on The Pump Handle.

After years of diligent and effective advocacy by former Marines and family members, the House voted on July 31, 2012 in favor of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (H.R. 1627). The House version was amended by the Senate and passed earlier in July and the final version now goes on to President Obama for signing into law. The first section of the bill is named after Janey Ensminger, the nine year-old daughter of former Marine Jerry Ensminger, who was conceived and born at Camp Lejeune and lived there until she was diagnosed with leukemia, which subsequently took her life. She was exposed to contaminated drinking water, as were hundreds of thousands of others who lived or worked on the base.

The Act, among other things, provides that the Department of Veterans Affairs will give hospital care and medical services to those veterans and families exposed during the years 1957 to 1987 for a variety of conditions that may have been caused by chemicals such as TCE, PCE, benzene and vinyl chloride in Camp Lejeune drinking water. The House members who spoke in favor of the bill noted that the health studies establishing the link between the water and various diseases are still underway, but the process of setting up medical and hospital care should not wait until those studies are completed. The details of this portion of the Act are still to be worked out by the VA and the affected parties.

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The Science Behind Unconventional Connections

What do contaminants in cord blood and climate change have in common? One answer: fossil fuels. Last week, a study published in Environmental Science and Technology showed how 87 commonly found chemicals pass efficiently from mother to fetus during pregnancy, and a vast majority of those chemicals are derived from petroleum. Last month, at the UN climate change talks in Cancun, side events sponsored by NGOs highlighted rising health concerns for children and other vulnerable populations related to climate change. Climate change, as scientists have demonstrated repeatedly, has in large part been catalyzed by the widespread development and use of petrochemicals and their by products, which are fast changing the delicate balance of our earth’s systems. In other words, fossil fuels are us, inside and out – with huge economic and social consequences for human and ecological health.

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