Study finds connection between Laurel Bay military housing and childhood cancer “unlikely”

BEAUFORT, Sc. (WSAV) – Laurel Bay has 1,100 military housing units for Marine Corps. Air Station Beaufort and Parris Island Recruit Depot families. It made headlines after several cases of childhood cancer surfaced, many parents blaming contamination underground, but after a recent study, the military says there is no correlation between the location and cancer.

You may recognize Amanda Whatley, a mother who lived at Laurel Bay, her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Her YouTube video calling out a link between contamination on military housing and her daughter’s cancer went viral. She claimed there were 13 other cases of children at Laurel Bay with similar stories.

That’s when the “Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center” started looking into it in 2015, completing their study in September of 2017.

They found 15 cases of cancer reported in children of active duty marines at the air station and Recruit Depot in Parris Island from 2002 to 2016 .

Cancers include acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, neuroblastoma, wilms tumor, and soft tissue sarcoma.

The study followed CDC guidelines to test the environment for ionizing radiation and benzene, two chemicals linked to these pediatric cancers.

In the 150’s to 1980’s, the Laurel Bay homes were heated by oil tanks, which were buried when they switched to natural gas heating.

More than 1200 tanks were removed from 2007 to 2015, some had corroded with benzene leaking into the ground.

The study found no “complete exposure pathway” in indoor air –meaning they couldn’t find contamination in direct contact with people inside buildings or homes, but, it adds the investigation is ongoing.

No benzene was found in Bolden Elementary School, but Galer Elemetnary’s samples exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency’s target for indoor air.

Overall, the study found all cancer cases were consistent with pediatric cancer in the general public

It states based on the “types and number of cancers observed… it is unlikely that the environmental… exposure is associated.”

An informational open house for Laurel Bay and Parris Island residents will be held at the Laurel Bay Youth Center Oct. 11 and 12 from 5 – 8 p.m. Subject matter experts from multiple fields will be available for discussion and the materials presented will be posted to the website.

For questions regarding the PHR report, please contact MCAS Beaufort at: or 843-228-6229.

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