Thursday, 24 February 2011

SIDS: CDC find no clues at Fort Bragg

Feb 14, 2011
It was the second-best outcome imaginable. An investigation led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that construction materials did not cause 11 infant deaths on Fort Bragg in four years - and neither did the other environmental influences that it tested.
"We have safe and secure housing for our families," said Col. Stephen Sicinski, the garrison commander.
It's good to have the news in such straightforward language, without equivocation or ambiguities. That's what the community at large, and several specific groups, have been waiting to hear.
There's no consolation in the report for the families of the babies (one of whom was found to have died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). But for parents and others who experienced respiratory distress consistent with exposure to toxic drywall, this should relieve some of the anxiety about their own health. The drywall in use at Fort Bragg is of U.S. origin and, the investigation shows, harmless.
A much larger number of military families having no direct connection with any of the 11 cases nevertheless has an interest in the announcement that their quarters are not threatened by toxic drywall. That assurance is especially valuable to those who had noted other conditions associated with drywall contamination: odor, failing air conditioners, corroded metal fixtures, blackened copper fittings.
Troops with the Forces and Reserve commands, many of them expecting to move into family housing this year, couldn't have gotten this general all-clear signal at a better time. Those early days at a new post are busy enough without adding worries about the safety of one's quarters.
It is, as we said, the second-best outcome.
The best would have been confirmation of the causes of those children's deaths. That would have removed the same doubts, and given the parents some sense of closure, as well.
It may happen. That investigation is still under way.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command provided neither details nor a timetable, but confirmed that the 10 cases are still under investigation, adding that the latest development - eliminating toxic drywall as a suspect - "has helped us narrow our focus."
That could be a drawn-out task that leads to 10 different causes of death - or fails to find any. Tedious, costly and uncertain. But tedium goes with the job and Sicinski had just the right take on the cost: It doesn't matter. It's the people who matter.

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