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Pentagon Trying to Determine Whether Children Born to Camp Lejeune Marines Harmed By Contaminated Water From 1968 to 1985

Aired November 1, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon has commented on our top story this hour, the investigation into the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Now, researchers are trying to figure out if children born to Marines there may have suffered birth defects from carcinogens in the drinking water. The suspect years in this story, 1968 to 1985.

CNN's Brian Cabell has been closely following this story and has the latest for us.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the press conference, Lou, they reiterated that they want to hear from Marine families all across the country; in fact, all across the world. They believe about 16,500 children may have been conceived or born at Camp Lejeune during these 17 years. They need to hear from about 80 percent of them, about 13,000 to make this a valid survey.

The question was asked of them, why this focus at this point on pregnancies and on newborns?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY KAYE, CHIEF EPIDEMIOLOGIST, ATSDR: There are some things in the literature that look at adults as well, but we view the fetus as the most susceptible subpopulation. We're starting with that group. If we find some problems in this population, then we will discuss it with the Marine Corps and others and decide whether we should do additional studies in this population.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: As for the Marines, they say they are cooperating fully with this, they want to help, but they also say they need help from Marines all across the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. MIKE LEHNERT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: What we are doing today is inviting Marines and their family members to participate in this survey, because their health is a matter of concern to us. You know, the motto "always faithful" doesn't stop the day that they leave the Marine Corps. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: Again, the number that they want you to call if you think you want to get involved in this survey, that you may have had a baby between '68 and '85, 1-800-639-4270, 1-800-639-4270.

So, again, they've contacted about 6,500 people so far. They need to talk to another 6,500, then they'll come out with the results and tell us whether, in fact, there were more birth defects and childhood cancers in that population.

WATERS: Still unanswered will be the question of why it took so long. But do you know why, when these drinking water wells were capped in 1985, what was known then? Why were the wells capped at that time?

CABELL: They knew there was PCE and TCE in those wells and they knew there was a problem back then. But back in the early '80s, up until the early '80s, it was not known that PCE and TCE were really serious problems with drinking water. It was only around the early '80s that they first started knowing that was a problem. They closed it down '85. Superfund came in in '89 and they're now cleaning up the site. And now, 15 years later, they are talking to people about this.

WATERS: Well, it's a story that we're going to be hearing more about.

CABELL: I would think so.

WATERS: OK, Brian Cabell.

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