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updated: 1/18/2013 7:58 PM

Camp Lejeune water contaminated in 1953

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Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Many more Marines and their relatives could be eligible for government health care for their illnesses after a federal agency determined that the water at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune was contaminated four years earlier than thought.

In a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a federal disease agency says computer modeling shows that drinking water in the residential Hadnot Point area was unsafe for human consumption as far back as 1953. President Barack Obama signed a law last year granting health care and screening to Marines and their dependents on base between 1957 and 1987.

Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sent the letter Wednesday.

It's not clear how many Marines served at Lejeune in those years.

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