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Military urged to pull inaccurate PR booklet

Congressional investigators will meet with Navy officials as soon as next week to pressure the military to reconsider a public relations booklet on past water contamination at Marine Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., that they say is misleading.

The booklet contains inaccurate information and could hurt scientists' efforts to survey thousands of former Lejeune residents and their family members about their health, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Thomas Sinks, deputy director of ATSDR, asked the Marine Corps two weeks ago to retract the booklet and pull it off a military website dedicated to disseminating public information about the contamination.

The dispute over the booklet is part of a larger ongoing public relations battle between the military and ATSDR, and it could shape not only what former Lejeune residents learn about the contamination, but also whether -- and how -- those residents might eventually be compensated.

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., who criticized the booklet last fall, praised ATSDR's action and said the military should pull the booklet.

As of late Monday the full-color booklet, titled, "Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water Questions and Answers," remained online.

As many as a million people are thought to have been exposed to benzene, trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene that flowed through the drinking water at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

Many now suffer from a host of cancers and other diseases that they attribute to the contaminated water. The Department of Veterans Affairs has linked some cancers to the poisoned water on an individual basis.

At issue in particular is a statement in the booklet that reads, "To date, the scientific community has not established an association between exposure to the contaminated water and health conditions reported by former residents of Camp Lejeune."

"That sentence is misleading," Sinks wrote.

And without knowing the risks, Miller said, many former residents won't know to see a doctor at the first symptom of illness.

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