Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is located near Jacksonville, N.C., about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. More than 1 million people may have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and the full effects of exposure may not be known for years or even decades. Researchers are still working to understand how the exposure may have affected people’s health, but some conditions have been linked to water contamination and the duration of exposure.
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Base housing records show that a total of 5,000 families were living on base during the time period when the water was being pumped into the tanks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request.
The marriage license records of Marines who served at Camp Lejeune show that the divorce rate was higher than average. In particular, the divorce rate was highest among those who served during the 1980s, when the water contamination was at its worst.
These findings suggest that Marines and their families were affected by Camp Lejeune’s toxic water in a number of ways. Cancer, birth defects, and divorce were all more common among those who served at the base during the time when the water was contaminated.
Read on to learn more about these conditions that may have been caused by water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
The Diseases Linked to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Water contamination at Camp Lejeune has been linked to several diseases in those exposed. These include cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease. The contaminants present in the water are thought to be responsible for these health problems.
There is a link between drinking contaminated water and the development of cancer. Some studies suggest that there is an increased risk of cancer cells growing in the body after being exposed to chemicals found in polluted water and developing the following types of cancer:
- bladder cancer
- kidney cancer
- liver cancer
- breast cancer
- lung cancer
- prostate cancer
- cervical cancer
- brain cancer
- ovarian cancer
- esophageal cancer
- rectal cancer
These health conditions can take many years to develop, so it will likely be years before we know if any of these cancers were caused by contaminated water.
According to the NCI, “People who drink contaminated water may also experience other health problems including nephritis, nephrosis, glomerulonephritis, hematuria, proteinuria, hypertension, renal toxicity.”
Symptoms of kidney cancer include pain in the abdomen, back, or side; blood in the urine, weight loss, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, and jaundice. For end-stage renal disease, symptoms include fluid retention, shortness of breath, weakness, and fainting.
The risk of bladder cancer also increases when people drink contaminated water. Symptoms of bladder cancer include pain in the lower back, frequent urination, blood in the urine, and difficulty passing urine.
Bladder cancer symptoms include frequent urination, burning during urination, blood in the urine, and pain when passing urine. Symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty passing urine, painful ejaculation, and blood in the semen.
Aside from female infertility, birth defects have also been linked to Camp Lejeune water pollution. According to the NCI, “Studies show that pregnant women who drank contaminated water while they were stationed at Camp Lejeune had babies born with malformed limbs, spines, and skulls. Some of these children died shortly after birth.”
Camp Lejeune was home to thousands of pregnant women. Some of them drank contaminated water while they were pregnant. Toxic chemicals from the drinking water could have passed through their bodies and into their unborn babies. This could lead to birth defects like:
- spina bifida
- cleft defects
- limb reduction defects
- neural tube defects
- eye defects
- birth weight issues
- premature delivery
- fetal death
- Major malformations of nasal passages, ears, eyes, mouth, lips, face, neck, spine, ribs, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, genitals, urinary tract, brain, spinal cord, limbs, hands, feet, skin, muscle, bone, joints, and/or internal organs.
Other Health Problems
In addition to the above-mentioned medical conditions, the medical evidence shows other health problems that have been linked to Camp Lejeune’s water pollution. They include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Heart disease
- Hepatic steatosis
- Chronic disabilities such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and lupus
- Neurological diseases and mood effects such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other neurobehavioral effects
- Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Adult leukemia
The Danger Associated With the Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune
Strong evidence shows that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune is dangerous for human health. The following studies provide strong evidence that the drinking water at the base was contaminated by toxic chemicals. The toxic exposure caused serious adverse health effects in many people who lived there.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine found that workers at Camp Lejeune were exposed to a wide range of harmful chemicals. These included:
- polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)
- organic compounds trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- vinyl chloride
Marines and Their Families Were Affected by Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Water
Presumptive conditions of cancer were confirmed in several Marines who served at Camp Lejeune. A study conducted by the NCI showed that the rate of bladder cancer among Marines who served at CampLejeune was more than twice the national average. In addition, the NCI reported that the rate of kidney cancer among Marines who served there was three times higher than the national average.
On the other hand, birth certificates indicate that the number of births in North Carolina declined between 1990 and 2000. However, the decline was not uniform across all counties. Birth rates dropped most significantly in Duplin County, where Camp Lejeune is located. Satellite camps near Camp Lejeune also had lower birth rates than surrounding areas.
As a result of these findings, it is clear that the water pollution in Duplin County had a negative impact on the health of residents, particularly on pregnant women and young children. This is an important issue to consider when discussing environmental health hazards in North Carolina.
In addition, industrial activities at the base also contributed to the high levels of air pollution in the area. According to the EPA, the air quality at Camp Lejeune was worse than it should be under federal standards. Sufficient evidence shows that industrial emissions from the base affected nearby residents’ health.
Medical Expenses Are Expected to Rise Because of Camp Lejeune Contamination
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of treating illnesses related to Camp Lejeune contamination will increase dramatically over time. The CDC estimates that the total costs could reach $2 billion by 2040.
This estimate does not include the long-term medical care needed by veterans who have been diagnosed with cancers or other diseases linked to their service at Camp Lejeune or the future costs of caring for children born with birth defects due to exposure to vinyl chloride.
The U.S. Government Is Responsible for Cleaning Up Camp Lejeune’s Tainted Water
Exposure to trichloroethylene can cause liver damage, which may lead to cirrhosis. Exposure to this chemical can also affect the immune system function and cause leukemia. Trichloroethylene has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Veteran community members who believe they were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving at Camp Lejeune are encouraged to contact the VA Office of Resolution Management. Veterans who believe they have been harmed by the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune may file a disability compensation claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Compensation for veterans who suffered illness or injury because of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is available through the VA Compensation Program. Additionally, connection for veterans who have died because of the contaminated water is available through the VA Death Benefit Program. Military service members who served at Camp Lejeune during the period of 1950 to 1987 are eligible to receive compensation and health care benefits from vinyl chloride exposure.
Occupational exposure can also result in cancer. For example, workers who worked on the site of the former Kincheloe Ordnance Depot in North Carolina between 1952 and 1962 had elevated rates of bladder cancer. Workers who lived near the Kincheloe facility had higher rates of lung cancer.
In addition to occupational exposures, people living near military bases often face environmental hazards. For example, many communities surrounding military bases experience high levels of air pollution. Air pollution can be harmful to human health. It can increase the risk of respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In some cases, it can even cause death.
The Government is Reimbursing Veterans’ Health Care Expenses Who Were Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Pollution
Disability compensation benefits are paid to veterans who suffer illness or injury because of exposure to hazardous substances at Camp Lejeune. These benefits cover medical expenses incurred by veterans who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camps Lejeune and Kincheloe.
If you or your loved one suffered from the effects of contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune, you might qualify for disability compensation benefits. If you want evidence of exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejuene, please submit an application for compensation and health care provisions in the Camp Lejeune Act.
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