Leukemia Strikes Near Contaminated U.S. Base

      August 17, 2011 13:37

      Two teenagers who live near a U.S. military base in Korea are suffering from leukemia and two other locals died of the disease in their 20s about 10 years ago, a member of a civilian fact-finding team said on Tuesday.

      Some U.S. veterans recently revealed that the U.S. Forces Korea base of Camp Carroll in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province was one of the sites used as a dump for hazardous and toxic materials, including the lethal defoliant Agent Orange between 1977 and 1982.

      The government plans to investigate whether contaminated groundwater from the camp caused the disease.

      A member of the team who conducted health tests on residents near Camp Carroll said, "The groundwater that locals have long been drinking is contaminated with leukemia-causing chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene [also known as perchloroethene or PCE] and trichloroethylene or TCE. We need to investigate if they contracted leukemia due to the chemicals from the U.S. base."

      PCE and TCE are contained mainly in solvents. They have been linked to leukemia and liver cancer, and are toxic to the nervous and reproductive systems.

      The fact-finding team will announce their findings on Wednesday. In a meeting with the ruling Grand National Party, the Environment Ministry said, "The government will decide whether to conduct health tests of its own on residents near Camp Carroll after the civilian team announces its findings. At the moment, we're making preliminary arrangements."

      According to a survey in June by the joint Korea-U.S. investigation team after the veterans' revelation, the amount of PCE in nearby groundwater was over 26 times the permissible level for drinking water. 

      In an environmental survey of Camp Carroll conducted by Samsung C&T Corporation in 2004, the amount of PCE was more than 1,000 times the permissible level, the USFK admitted earlier.

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