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What Happened Camp Lejeune?

Quick Answer

People living or working at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were exposed to contaminated drinking water from the 1950s to the 1980s, leading to serious health consequences. As many as one million military and civilian staff and their families may have been affected. Lawsuits have been filed, and victims may be eligible for compensation if they meet certain criteria. The compensation process is ongoing, and lawyers are assisting claimants in seeking compensation for their health issues.

Introduction

Camp Lejeune, located in North Carolina, is a prominent U.S. Marine Corps Base that has played a significant role in military operations for decades. However, the base’s history also includes a dark chapter of water contamination that has had far-reaching consequences.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, individuals living or working at Camp Lejeune were potentially exposed to contaminated drinking water. The presence of industrial solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), originating from drycleaning waste, along with benzene leakage from underground fuel storage tanks was detected within the base’s water supply.

This discovery led to numerous lawsuits surrounding this issue due to its severe impact on those who resided or worked at Camp Lejeune during this period. As many as one million military personnel and civilian staff members – including their families – may have been exposed to these harmful contaminants.

The potential health consequences resulting from exposure are alarming. Individuals affected by this contamination faced an increased risk of developing various serious conditions and diseases linked directly to prolonged contact with polluted drinking water.

These circumstances prompted legal action against responsible parties seeking compensation for victims’ suffering caused by exposure while residing or serving at Camp Lejeune during those years.

The Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps Base located in North Carolina, experienced significant water contamination from the 1950s through the 1980s. This contamination was caused by various sources including industrial solvents and leaking underground fuel storage tanks.

The drinking water at Camp Lejeune contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), and benzene. These chemicals were detected in the base’s water supply due to drycleaning waste containing TCE and PCE seeping into groundwater, as well as leaks from underground fuel storage tanks releasing benzene.

The timeline of when this contamination was discovered spans several decades. In 1982, it came to light that specific VOCs were present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune after routine testing revealed their presence above safe levels set by regulatory standards.

Unfortunately, despite knowledge of these contaminants within military circles for years prior to public disclosure, no mass health warning or immediate action was taken until much later – approximately fourteen years after initial discovery.

These volatile organic compounds pose serious risks to human health when ingested over an extended period of time through contaminated drinking water consumption or other means like bathing or cooking with tainted tapwater.

Health Consequences of Exposure

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune has been linked to a range of health conditions and diseases. Individuals who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water, whether by living or working at the base, may have experienced serious side effects. Here are some of the health conditions that have been associated with exposure:

1. Parkinson’s Disease:

Exposure to certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water has been linked to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disorder affects movement and can lead to tremors, stiffness, balance problems, and difficulty walking.

2. Kidney Cancer:

There is evidence suggesting a connection between exposure at Camp Lejeune and an elevated risk for kidney cancer development later in life.

3. Leukemias (all types):

Various forms of leukemia including myelodysplastic syndromes have also been identified as potential consequences resulting from exposure.

4. Liver Cancer:

Individuals exposed may be more susceptible to liver cancer which occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably within this vital organ.

5. Bladder Cancer:

Exposure could increase one’s chances of bladder cancer, a type of malignancy affecting urinary system organs such as kidneys and ureters.

6. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma:

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a group of cancers originating from white blood cells called lymphocytes, may develop in individuals after being exposed.

7. Multiple Myeloma:

Multiple myeloma is characterized by malignant plasma cell growth in the bone marrow, resulting in weakened immune systems and skeletal damage.

8. Kidney Disease (End-Stage Renal Disease):

Long-term complications include end-stage renal disease where the kidneys fail to function properly, necessitating dialysis or transplantation.

9. Systemic Sclerosis/Scleroderma:

Systemic sclerosis, sometimes referred to as scleroderma, is a rare autoimmune condition that causes hardening of the skin and connective tissues throughout the body.

10. Cardiac Birth Defects:

Exposure may increase the risk of cardiac birth defects, which are structural abnormalities in the heart present at the time of a baby’s birth.

11. Esophageal Cancer:

Esophageal cancer, a malignancy affecting the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach), may develop in individuals exposed.

12. Male Breast Cancer:

While rare, male breast cancer can occur in individuals exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

13. Lung Cancer (Non-Smoker):

Even non-smokers who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water have been found to be at an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

14. Miscarriage:

Pregnant women who were exposed faced higher rates of miscarriages compared to those not exposed.

15. Hepatic Steatosis (Fatty Liver Disease):

Hepatic steatosis, frequently referred to as fatty liver disease, results in the accumulation of fat cells within the organ.

16. Female Infertility:

Female infertility refers to the inability to conceive a child after trying for a certain period without success. Exposure could contribute to this condition.

17. Neurobehavioral Effects/Parkinson’s Disease:

In addition to Parkinson’s disease mentioned earlier, exposure is also associated with other neurobehavioral effects such as cognitive impairment and mood disorders.

18. Non-Cardiac Birth Defects (Eye Defects, Oral Clefts, Neural Tube Defects, etc.):

Various non-cardiac birth defects including eye defects, oral clefts, and neural tube defects may result from exposure during pregnancy.

19. Female Breast Cancer:

Women diagnosed with female breast cancers are more likely to have had a history of being stationed or living on the base than the general population.

20. Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer sometimes develops in women who have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for a prolonged period of time.

21. Hodgkin’s Disease:

Hodgkin’s disease is a malignant tumor of lymphocytes characterized by enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and bone marrow.

22. Ovarian Cancer:

Ovarian cancer affects women’s reproductive organs and may develop after exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

23. Prostate Cancer:

Exposure may increase the risk of prostate cancer, which affects the male reproductive system.

24. Rectal Cancer:

Rectal cancer sometimes develops in individuals who have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

25. Brain Cancer:

Brain cancers can occur in individuals who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water. These tumors originate within the brain or spinal cord.

26. Liver Cirrhosis:

Liver cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.

27. Soft Tissue Cancers:

Soft tissue cancers refer to malignancies that develop in the soft tissues of the body, such as muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and tendons.

28. Hypersensitivity Skin Disorder:

Some individuals who were exposed experienced hypersensitivity skin disorders, such as rashes and itching.

29. Aplastic Anemia:

Aplastic anemia is a condition where the bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells, resulting in fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath.

It is estimated that as many as one million military and civilian staff, along with their families, might have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The long-term health consequences of this exposure are still being studied, but it is clear that those affected face significant risks and potential complications related to these various health conditions mentioned above.

Lawsuits and Compensation

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune has led to numerous legal actions taken by individuals who have been affected. Those who were exposed to the contaminated water, either by living or working at the base, may be eligible for compensation if they meet certain criteria set by law.

Filing a Claim

To file a claim for compensation, individuals must have been diagnosed with one of several specific injuries after exposure at Camp Lejeune. These include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemias (including myelodysplastic syndromes)
  • Liver cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Kidney disease (end-stage renal disease)
  • Systemic sclerosis/scleroderma
  • Cardiac birth defects
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Lung cancer (if non-smoker)
  • Miscarriage
  • Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
  • Female infertility
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-cardiac birth defects (such as eye defects, oral clefts, neural tube defects, etc.)
  • Female breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Soft tissue cancer
  • Hypersensitivity skin disorder
  • Aplastic anemia

Alternatively, individuals may qualify if they have been diagnosed with another injury not listed above that occurred after exposure at Camp LeJeune, including any type of serious medical condition or injury.

The Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act

In 2012, Congress passed the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which provides healthcare benefits and reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses related to covered health conditions. This act allows qualifying veterans who served on active duty for at least 30 days between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987 in Camp Lejeune to receive all their health care from the VA, even if they don’t currently suffer from a presumed service-related illness.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established presumptive service connection, meaning it is assumed that these illnesses are connected due to contaminants found in the drinking water supply during this period. The covered health conditions include esophageal cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, renal toxicity, female infertility, scleroderma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, and other types of cancers, as well as hepatic steatosis, miscarriage, neurobehavioral effects/Parkinson’s disease.

It is important to note that family members of veterans who also resided at Camp Lejeune during the qualifying period may be eligible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses related to these covered health conditions. This means that if a spouse or child developed one of the listed illnesses due to exposure at Camp Lejeune, they can file a claim with the VA.

Filing a Claim and Legal Assistance

If you believe you meet the criteria for compensation based on your diagnosis after exposure at Camp Lejeune, it is recommended that you contact your primary care provider and discuss filing a claim. The process can be complex, but there are lawyers available who specialize in assisting individuals affected by water contamination issues like those experienced at Camp Lejeune. These legal professionals have experience navigating through this complicated system and will guide victims throughout their claims journey, ensuring all necessary documentation has been submitted correctly so no detail goes unnoticed when seeking justice against negligence caused by military officials responsible for maintaining safe drinking water supply systems within bases across America.

Current Status and Challenges

The water contamination issue at Camp Lejeune has led to a lengthy compensation process for those affected. As of now, the settlement claims are still being processed, and it is taking considerable time to reach resolutions.

Lawyers have played an important role in assisting claimants throughout this process. They provide legal guidance and support to individuals seeking compensation for their health complications resulting from exposure to the contaminated water. It’s worth noting that some lawyers may charge a portion of the awarded compensation as fees for their services.

One significant challenge faced during this ordeal was the delay in issuing a mass health warning by military officials. The discovery of contaminated drinking water occurred back in 1982; however, it took another 14 years before any official warnings were issued regarding potential health risks associated with living or working on base.

This delay raises questions about accountability within military leadership concerning timely communication and action when such hazards are identified. Many believe that if appropriate measures had been taken earlier, countless cases of illness could have potentially been prevented or mitigated.

Despite these challenges, efforts continue towards providing justice and compensating victims who suffered due to exposure at Camp Lejeune.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is the significance of Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune is a U.S. Marine Corps Base located in North Carolina. It has played a crucial role as a training facility for Marines and has been home to military personnel, their families, and civilian employees.

Q2: How did the water at Camp Lejeune become contaminated?

The contamination occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s due to various sources. Industrial solvents like trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), originating from drycleaning waste, along with benzene leakage from underground fuel storage tanks were detected in the drinking water on base.

Q3: What health conditions have been linked to exposure at Camp Lejeune?

Exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has been associated with several serious health consequences. These include Parkinson’s disease, kidney cancer, leukemias (including myelodysplastic syndromes), liver cancer bladder cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma multiple myeloma kidney disease systemic sclerosis/scleroderma cardiac birth defects esophageal Cancer male breast cancer lung Cancer miscarriage hepatic steatosis female infertility neurobehavioral effects non-cardiac birth defects female breast cancer cervical Cancer Hodgkin’s Disease ovarian Cancer prostate Cancer rectal Cance brain cance liver cirrhosis soft tissue Can hypersensitivity skin disorder aplastic anemia or alternatively any type of other cancers not listed above or serious medical condition/injury after exposure.

Q4: Who may be eligible for compensation related to this issue?

Individuals who lived or worked at Camp LeJeune between August 1st ,1953 – December31st ,1987 are potentially eligible if they meet certain criteria set by law. They must have received diagnosis one of injuries mentioned earlier OR alternatiely PC must have diagnosed with another Injury after exposure at Camp LeJeune: Any type of cancer, serious medical condition, or injury not listed above.

Q5: What is the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act?

The Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 provides qualifying Veterans and their family members who resided on base during the specified period access to cost-free healthcare (except dental care) from VA. It also establishes a presumptive service connection for certain diseases linked to water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

Q6: How can individuals file a claim for compensation?

Individuals seeking compensation should contact their primary care provider and inform them about potential health conditions related to contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune. They may then proceed with filing a claim through appropriate channels as per guidelines provided by relevant authorities overseeing the process.

Please note that this content has been written based on available information sources but it’s always recommended to consult official resources or legal professionals regarding specific questions or concerns related to individual cases.

References

  1. https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/
  2. https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/01/us/camp-lejeune-water-victims-claims/index.html