Partial results from Navy health study out
June 19, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — A Navy family is moving from its off-base housing unit in Naples after a recent study determined there were unacceptable levels of contaminants in the drinking water.
The home was one of seven that was part of a pilot study of water and soil sampled as the Navy conducts a public-health assessment of the Naples region. The other six homes in the study were determined to have risks that were "potentially of concern" to Navy officials.
None of the homes was deemed "acceptable."
The home determined to be unacceptable had "an elevated solvent concentration, tetrachloroethene, in the tap water," Navy officials said in a press release Tuesday.
Tetrachloroethene has been used primarily as a solvent in dry cleaning industries, according to the World Health Organization. At high concentrations, tetrachloroethene causes central nervous system depression. However, studies show no convincing evidence of an increased risk of cancer arising from exposure in drinking water, according to the WHO.
After being told of the results, the family members requested that they be allowed to move into base housing at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano. The Navy granted their request.
As of Wednesday, none of the other families whose homes were part of the study had been moved.
"There is no immediate risk to the families as they are drinking and cooking with bottled water," Kelly Burdick, spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Europe and Southwest Asia, said in the release. "Another tap water sample will be collected at each of the six homes to confirm results."
There were no significant risks from the soil samples analyzed, Navy health officials said in a briefing Wednesday.
No specific data on the pilot survey results was provided during the briefing, but officials said the individual families were given results earlier this week from the testing done in their homes.
"Data collected from the seven Pilot Study homes cannot be used to make broad conclusions for the area," Navy officials said in Tuesday’s press release.
"It is the Navy’s obligation to provide residents with timely, accurate, and relevant results in the appropriate context. Laboratory data alone are not provided because they do not answer the question ‘What does this mean to me and my family?’ " Burdick said.
"The Navy’s process is consistent with the approach that the USEPA follows in United States and ensures that sampling data are checked for accuracy and thoroughly evaluated in the risk assessment. These results are only applicable to the residence that was sampled and cannot be used to make broad conclusions."
None of the findings prompted officials to recommend medical treatment or testing for residents in the pilot study, but Navy officials said all residents are continually encouraged to seek medical treatment and document any health concerns they might have.
During Wednesday’s briefing, officials said they notified the base housing office to ensure the database of homes available to rent on the economy included any risk information based on the pilot study, and future information from the larger study already under way.
The pilot study was done to test the sampling, analysis and notification processes as a lead up to the Phase 1 study which will include 130 off-base homes. The soil and water sampling, as well as air monitoring for the Phase 1 study, is already under way, officials said.
"As this sampling phase continues, families and landlords will continue to be notified whenever initial data analysis reveals potential concern or greater risk," Burdick said.
Contaminants and what they can do to you
The Navy announced Tuesday that a pilot study of drinking water samples in seven homes in the Naples area found the water was unacceptable or of potential concern because of high levels of contaminants.
Here’s a look at some of the contaminants found and their health effects:
Tetrachloroethene (found in three homes)
Tetrachloroethene has been used primarily as a solvent in dry cleaning industries and to a lesser extent as a degreasing solvent. It is widespread in the environment and is found in trace amounts in water, aquatic organisms, air, foodstuffs and human tissue.
At high concentrations, tetrachloroethene causes central nervous system depression. Lower concentrations have been reported to damage the liver and the kidneys. However, studies show no convincing evidence of an increased risk of total or specific cancers arising from exposure in drinking water.
Trichloroethene (found in one home)
Trichloroethene is used primarily in metal degreasing. It is emitted mainly to the atmosphere, but it may also be introduced into ground water. Poor handling as well as improper disposal of trichloroethene in landfills have been the main causes of ground water contamination.
Drinking water with levels slightly above the standard for a short time period does not significantly increase the risk of illness. The risk of illness, however, increases as the level of trichloroethene increases and the length of time you drink the water increases. Drinking water with concentrations of trichloroethene well above the drinking water standard for long periods may cause liver and kidney damage, impaired immune system function and impaired fetal development in pregnant women.
Dioxins (found in one home)
Dioxins are environmental pollutants. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems. Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Short-term exposure to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. Chronic exposure of animals to dioxins has resulted in several types of cancer.
Source: World Health Organization; Florida Department of Health