Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Chemicals at Camp Lejeune

Individuals who lived, worked, and served at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 may have been exposed to drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals. These toxins have been connected to a variety of health issues, including some types of cancer.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bipartisan bill that would allow a two-year window for victims of Camp Lejeune-related water contamination illnesses to file claims for damages against the United States Government.

The bill has moved to the Senate at the time of this writing. Should it pass, hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families may finally be able to find justice for the harm they suffered.

Chemicals Found in Water Treatment Plants at Camp Lejeune

The contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune started in the early 1950s, and the contaminated wells were shut down in 1985.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has been assessing the health risks from the toxic chemicals that were found in the water samples since the late 1980s. The organization estimates that as many as one million military and civilian staff and their families may have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water.

Chemicals found at the water treatment plants in the 1980s include:

  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE): Also called perchloroethylene (PERC), this is a liquid solvent primarily used in dry cleaning operations, textile processing, and metal manufacturing.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE): This chemical is used in many industries, usually as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but also as an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, and spot removers.
  • Benzene: Benzene is used as a constituent in motor fuels; as a solvent for fats, waxes, resins, oils, inks, paints, plastics, and rubber; in the extraction of oils from seeds and nuts; and the manufacture of detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and dyestuffs.
  • Vinyl chloride: This is a manufactured substance that can be formed when other chemicals like TCE And PCE are broken down. IT’s used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is, in turn, used to make a variety of plastic products.

Health Effects Linked with Toxins Found at Camp Lejeune

Not everyone who is exposed to these toxins will develop a health problem. The effects depend on:

  • When you were exposed (during pregnancy, in infancy, etc.)
  • How much you were exposed to
  • How long you were exposed
  • How you were exposed (breathing, drinking)
  • What your personal traits and habits are

The ATSDR studied the chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water and determined there was sufficient evidence to connect exposure to them with the following potential health effects:

  • Cancer (kidney, bladder, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, liver, multiple myeloma)
  • Heart problems
  • End-stage renal (kidney) disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Scleroderma

In addition, the ATSDR also found other health effects linked to these chemicals in populations other than Camp Lejeune who worked with and/or drank water contaminated with these chemicals.

  • Cancer (breast, cervical, esophageal, lung, ovarian, prostate, rectal, brain, soft tissue)
  • Impaired immune system function
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Neurological effects (problems with short-term memory, visual perception, attention)
  • Neurobehavioral performance deficits (delayed recall, mood effects)
  • Eye defects
  • Low birth weight, small for gestational age
  • Miscarriage
  • Neural tube birth defects

If you or a loved one lived and/or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 and later suffered one of these illnesses, you may be eligible to file a claim for VA benefits. If the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 passes into law, you may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages.