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What Are The side Effects of the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

Over the years, more and more information has come out about the water contamination problem at the United States Marine Corps Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Officials knew about the problem for numerous years, but they allowed water treatment plants to service various parts of the base from 1953 to 1987.

This has resulted in many Marines and their families being exposed to toxic chemicals that have been linked to various health problems, such as cancer, liver damage, and reproductive difficulties.

The Marine Corps has set up a website where people can learn more about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. They are also working to help those who have been affected by the contamination.

Continue reading to learn more details about the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination.

The Water Contamination and Cancer Connection at Camp Lejeune

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Health survey results show that there is a higher rate of cancer among Marines who served on Camp Lejeune than among other Marines.

Exposure to contaminated water can cause the development of cancer, including:

Exposure to Contaminants at Camp Lejeune

The contamination had been seeping into the groundwater for at least three years, and it took another two years for the EPA to order the company to take corrective action. The U.S. Marine Corps identified volatile organic compounds in 1982, including multiple chemicals exceeding EPA’s maximum contamination levels in the water. Finally, in February 1985, the most contaminated wells were finally shut down.

The contamination had been seeping into the groundwater for at least three years, and it took another two years for the EPA to order the company to take corrective action. The company was fined $1.2 million dollars and required to implement a water treatment system. Although the wells have been closed for over 30 years, the plume of contamination still exists and is being monitored by the EPA.

There are a variety of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that were identified in the water supply at Camp Lejeune. The EPA and CDC investigations traced the contamination to an off-base dry cleaner, local industrial spills, and seepage from underground storage tanks.

Initial exposure to contaminants could occur during drinking or bathing. However, the most significant risk comes from eating food that has been prepared with contaminated water. Additionally, damaging health impacts may be experienced after prolonged exposure to chemicals. Plus, daily exposure to high levels of contaminants can lead to serious health issues.

Findings of human studies on the Camp Lejeune contamination show that there is no safe level of exposure to these toxins. In fact, some of the chemicals found in the water supply at the base have been shown to cause cancer.

Additional studies also showed that children born to mothers living near the contaminated area were more likely to develop leukemia than other children. In addition to the health risks associated with water contamination, the government has not compensated those who have been harmed. Many residents of the area believe they should receive financial assistance for the damages caused by the contamination.

According to epidemiologic studies, people exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune were twice as likely to get bladder cancer than those who did not drink the contaminated water. Women who drank the contaminated water while pregnant were four times more likely to give birth to babies with neural tube defects. This condition occurs when the brain does not form properly. 

Exposure Categories

There are three exposure categories for the Camp Lejeune water contamination: in-utero, adult, and childhood.

  • In-utero refers to prenatal exposure which is when a pregnant woman is exposed to contaminated water while carrying her child. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene-contaminated water increases the likelihood of birth defects, while postnatal exposure increases the likelihood of developing cancer.
  • Adult refers to when somebody was exposed as an adult, between 18 years old and up.
  • Childhood refers to when somebody was exposed as a child, between 0 and 17 years old. 

Each category has different effects of exposure on the person’s health. Note that exposure during gestation causes birth defects, while exposure later in life leads to cancers. 

In-utero exposure can lead to birth defects, low birth weight, preterm delivery, and neonatal death. Adult exposure can lead to cancers of the kidney, liver, bladder, and lymphoma. Childhood exposure can lead to cancers of the kidney, liver, and lymphoma.

There is no specific treatment for any of the conditions caused by the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The best thing that can be done is to try to avoid exposure to contaminated water.

The risk factors caused by toxic exposure to harmful chemicals include:

  • Drinking water contamination
  • Bathing in contaminated water
  • Eating food that has been cooked with contaminated water
  • Living near areas where there is heavy rainfall
  • Working around hazardous waste sites
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Having a family history of cancer
  • Being exposed to radiation
  • Being exposed to other environmental toxins
  • Chronic low-level exposure

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Symptoms

Marines and others who suffered from acute PCE exposure at Camp Lejeune may have suffered. These symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rashes
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or gain

Chronic PCE exposure may cause these symptoms:

  • Hair loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Eye irritation
  • Itchy skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Swelling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Mental impairment
  • Death

Such damage was associated with chronic high-level exposure to solvents like trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). 

Presumptive Conditions from Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

People who live near the Camp Lejeune site may suffer from certain health conditions because of their proximity to the contaminated area. 

The potential health effects include:

  • Cancer
  • Birth Defects
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Respiratory Diseases
  • Reproductive Problems
  • Genetic Damage
  • Immunological Disorders
  • Endocrine System Disorders
  • Organ Dysfunction
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Female Infertility
  • Neurobehavioral Effects

TCE and PCE were used as degreasing agents at the Camp Lejeune Naval Base. They were also used to clean out tanks and pipes. This resulted in large amounts of TCE and PCE being released into the groundwater. Medical evidence shows that chronic exposure to TCE and PCE can result in serious health problems.

Adverse health effects, on the other hand, include:

  • Cancerous tumors
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriages
  • Low birth weights
  • Congenital malformations
  • Still births
  • Premature deliveries
  • Fetal deaths
  • Neonatal deaths
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Neurological diseases
  • Asthma
  • Allergies

Impacts of PCE Exposure

Remember, though, that the duration of exposure to toxic chemicals determines how severe the symptoms will be. If you think you may have been exposed to chemical contaminants, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Here are the dangers of vinyl chloride, benzene, trichloroethylene, and PCE exposure:

  • Exposure to vinyl chloride can cause blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, and lung disease.
  • Exposure to benzene can cause leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Exposure to trichloroethylene can cause kidney damage, liver problems, and cancer. 
  • Exposure to PCE can cause brain damage, nerve damage, and cancer.

Cumulative exposure to any of these chemicals can lead to a variety of health issues.

Treatment Options

People who suffer from the above symptoms from drinking water exposures should seek medical attention immediately. Treatment options will depend on the severity of the symptoms.

For mild cases, it may be sufficient to treat the symptoms. For severe cases, doctors may prescribe medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antibiotics.

The association between exposure to toxic chemicals and health issues is well documented. However, the exact mechanisms behind this association are not known. Some experts believe genetic predisposition is important in determining susceptibility to toxic exposures. Others believe that certain lifestyle choices (such as smoking) play a major role in increasing one’s risk of developing diseases later in life.

Maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are used to determine whether or not a particular substance poses a threat to public health. MCLGs are based on scientific evidence and are designed to protect human health. They also help ensure that people do not exceed safe levels of exposure to toxic substances.

Health Care Law 

Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination Case

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced that it would conduct a study to investigate the possible connection between the use of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and the development of various illnesses among former service members and their families. The DOD began its investigation after receiving numerous complaints about the water quality at Camp Lejeune.

Covered health conditions are subject to the following provisions of the law. If you have a covered condition, your plan must pay for treatment related to that condition. Your plan cannot deny coverage because you were injured while performing military duties.

You cannot be denied coverage because you received care from a provider other than a military facility. Your plan cannot require you to provide proof of military service before paying disability benefits. Medical expenses for Camp Lejeune’s water contamination victims are considered “service-connected” under federal law. This means that if you receive treatment for a covered condition caused by water contamination, your plan must cover all medically necessary services.

If you need help on how to apply for disability benefits, contact a lawyer who is in the know for the Camp Lejeune’s water contamination case.

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