Army Secretary: Infant deaths remain unexplained

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2011 2:00 PM
Army Secretary: Infant deaths remain unexplained

Army Secretary John McHugh said Thursday that the unexplained deaths of 12 infants in housing at a North Carolina Army post is an incredibly frustrating situation, but investigators are running out of options to better understand the mystery.

The deaths at Fort Bragg date to 2007 and three were in one house. The most recent was Feb. 24.

Federal investigators led by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in February that there was no evidence that toxic drywall or other environmental factors contributed to the deaths. But, it was determined that in a house where three babies perished, there were pesticide levels on the "high end of the normal range," so additional tests were ordered.

On Thursday, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command said the follow-up pesticide testing showed that the concentration of pesticides "were not elevated and do not pose a health hazard." Army CID said its investigation "remains open and ongoing."

McHugh told a congressional panel that it was the Army that first pointed out the cluster of deaths. He said he ordered an additional review that includes an architect, chemists and environmental experts, but they are close to running out of things to test.

"When we run out of things to do, if someone thinks of something else we can do, please let us know," McHugh said. "We don't want to leave any stone unturned, but quite honestly, from a scientific analysis perspective, we're getting to the end of what we know to be the available investigatory tools."

McHugh was questioned by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. Hagan said she was concerned the situation would affect soldiers' ability to perform.

"This is an issue of family readiness," Hagan said. "We don't want soldiers from Fort Bragg to worry about the safety of their families when they're deployed."