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The Pentagon has stalled efforts to clean water supplies contaminated by a carcinogenic chemical despite evidence that it posed a significant health risk to millions of people, the Los Angeles Times reported recently.

The Environment Protection Agency (epa) had conducted a study in the 1990s to assess the danger of industrial solvents in the nation's water supplies. In 2001, it reported that the solvent trichloroethylene, used extensively in military bases, was as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than previously believed.

If the 2001 report was accurate, experts claim, thousands of the nation's birth defects and cancers every year could be due to the chemical. epa recommended tough safety standards to limit public exposure.

The report led to a high-stake battle between epa and the defence department, which had more than 1,400 military properties nationwide polluted with the chemical (used in metal degreasing), according to an investigation of the Los Angeles Times.

The Pentagon challenged the scientific basis of the findings, which led to a further study by the National Academy of Sciences, with the report due this summer. Pentagon said it was only striving to make smart decisions based on science and accused epa of being influenced by left-leaning scientists.

Gina Solomon, an expert on environmental medicine from the University of California at San Francisco, who was on the scientific board that reviewed the epa report, says the second study was unnecessary: "The 2001 report was an excellent piece of scientific work.