Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Symptoms

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was opened in 1941 to serve the needs of the United States Marine Corps. It houses approximately 100,000 people–38,000 troops and their family members, civilians, and military retirees live on base and in the surrounding area. 

From 1953 to 1987, something terrible happened at the base. But because its silent nature and the long-term damage caused were visible only decades later, no one could have known the consequences. Due to a series of failures in planning, safety, and inspection, the camp’s water well was poisoned.

In this piece, we’ll look at the symptoms related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination scandal, as well as the events themselves, and how they relate to the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.

What Was in the Water at Camp Lejeune?

While there are many hazardous chemicals at a military base that could seep into the ground and well water, the smaller source of water contamination was radioactive waste near the camp’s rifle range. Though the largest source of contamination appears to be from leaking fuel storage tanks, it is estimated that up to 800,000 gallons of fuel containing benzene seeped into the ground from leaky storage tanks. 

Tragically, those fuel tanks were in close proximity to the primary well that serves Hadnot Point, where the living quarters of enlisted personnel, officers, and the base hospital were located. This means that for thirty years, anyone who bathed in or drank the water in this area was likely exposed to levels of benzene and other hazardous chemicals 240 to 3400 times greater than those at which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems safe for human contact.

Symptoms Related to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

In regards to the service members and their families stationed at Camp Lejeune for thirty consecutive days between August 1953 through December 1987, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has stated they may have been exposed to water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. Drinking this contaminated water with high levels of these chemicals has been linked to various serious 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

There could potentially be other less-common problems and medical conditions related to toxic exposure from the water supply at Camp Lejeune, including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Justice for the Victims of Camp Lejeune

The recognition of water problems at Camp Lejeune began in the 1980s. For many victims and their families, it was much more difficult to prove their case and receive compensation. 

Initially, the US Government and its inspectors only recognized a limited number of chemicals present in the water. In 2009, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was forced to withdraw its previous 1997 study showing that cancerous effects were unlikely from the contaminated groundwater. The ATSDR was forced to admit that benzene, which was previously omitted from prior testing, was the largest culprit due to massive fuel leaks. 

In 2012, due to an immense public outcry from victims and their families, Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Act and the Janey Ensminger Act. Together, these acts offered free healthcare at Veterans Administration hospitals for service members and their families and children–children who may have been affected not only by direct exposure, but also in the womb at the time of the mother’s exposure to the Camp Lejeune water chemicals.

These two acts, however, did not provide any form of monetary compensation to the victims or grant military veterans the ability to file lawsuits against the government for their injuries. Finally, in 2022, the US House of Representatives passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which will hopefully soon pass in the Senate. The passage of this act will enable victims and their families to receive additional financial compensation in disability payments or through other payments.

 

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