For over thirty years between 1953 to 1987, veterans and their families stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune may have been potentially exposed to high levels of cancer-causing carcinogenic compounds. For many of these veterans and their families, this has led to many illnesses, unexpected cancers, and early deaths, as evidenced by the chemical exposure that continues to be uncovered.
In recent years, the United States Congress, along with the military, Camp Lejeune lawyers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has recognized the ongoing need to provide not only healthcare, but also compensation to the victims and their families.
Here, we will examine the common health issues caused by the Camp Lejeune water contamination as well as the chemicals themselves behind these chronic health problems.
Why Was the Water Contaminated at Camp Lejeune?
Beginning in the early 1980s, the United States Congress mandated that dangerous chemicals were no longer allowed into waterways or groundwater as part of the Clean Water Act. Consequently, a mass testing campaign began in order to examine drinking water sources around the United States–the US Military was no exception to this testing campaign.
The earliest tests of what was in the water at Camp Lejeune in October 1980–particularly related to two of the eight wells at Camp Lejeune–showed elevated and unsafe levels of organic cleaning solvents. This was traced to a nearby dry cleaning business whose chemicals had leaked into the groundwater from which the wells originated.
These chemicals were the tip of the iceberg–one of the chemicals, identified as benzene, was not disclosed, as it was not considered a chemical that could cause health problems. As late as 1997, officials with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) still overlooked benzene as a primary cause of the health issues suffered by veterans previously stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Finally, in 2009, ATSDR recanted its previous report from 1997 and identified benzene as a major factor after it was discovered that up to 800,000 gallons of fuel had leaked into the ground from storage tanks. The fuel storage was tragically located near the Hadnot Point well, where the enlisted and officers living quarters, as well as the base hospital, got its water supply.
Health Issues Associated With Water Contamination At Camp Lejeune
Any military service member or their families stationed at Camp Lejeune for thirty consecutive days between August 1953 through December 1987 are recognized as potentially exposed to dangerous chemicals in the water. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that the water was contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. Bathing in or drinking, this contaminated water that contained high levels of these chemicals has been linked to various serious and long-term health problems, including:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Other less-common problems and medical conditions related to toxic exposure from the water supply at Camp Lejeune include:
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
Additionally, the VA may have identified a high risk of prostate cancer at Camp Lejeune. One of the primary difficulties in pointing to Camp Lejeune’s water supply as the cause of this illness is because cancer may occur years or decades after exposure. As a result, many doctors are still unclear on the underlying cause of this cancer in those stationed at Camp Lejeune.
Compensation for the Victims of Camp Lejeune
Thanks to legislation like the Janey Ensminger Act, as well as the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, veterans and their families are now eligible not only for free VA healthcare related to these illnesses but also for financial compensation for lost wages or disabilities due to exposure at Camp Lejeune. Qualified attorneys such as those at Strom Law can assist any veterans looking for help receiving the compensation they deserve.