The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) identified an error in the exposure classifications used in its epidemiological study entitled Volatile Organic Compounds in Drinking Water and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes at the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, NC. This misclassification error may have affected the results of this study. ATSDR issued the final report on the study in 1998.
The error was the result of a lack of information on the date a treatment plant on the base began operation. It was assumed that the Holcomb Boulevard Treatment Plant was operating during the entire period of the study, 1968-1985. This plant provided drinking water that was uncontaminated by solvents to some family housing units at the base. However, as a result of activities by ATSDR to historically reconstruct the drinking water contamination at the base, the agency has learned that the Holcomb Boulevard Treatment Plant did not begin operation until June 1972. Prior to June 1972, a different source of water contaminated with solvents such as trichloroethylene provided drinking water to the Holcomb Boulevard service area. This means that most of the births during the period, January 1968 – May 1972 that were classified as unexposed in the 1998 study were actually exposed in utero to contaminated drinking water.
ATSDR regrets the error that was made in the 1998 study. ATSDR plans to reanalyze the 1998 study when the agency’s historical reconstruction of the drinking water contamination at the base is completed in 2008. The historical reconstruction will produce monthly quantitative estimates of the contaminant levels in the drinking water. By utilizing these monthly estimates, the reanalysis should considerably improve the quality of the 1998 study.