President Joe Biden signed the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into Law on August 10, 2022. The law expands on VA (Veterans Affairs). health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Camp Lejeune water contamination from 1953 to 1987, and many other toxic substances. Residents of Maine Base Camp Lejeune were exposed to poisonous chemicals that resulted in illnesses and are considered one of the works public drinking water contamination incidents in the nation’s history.
What is Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
Camp Lejeune water contamination is traced through the discovery of Marine Corps and federal documents produced by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) investigation of the water contamination in the 1980s. Camp Lejeune is one of the busiest and largest Marine Corps bases, founded in 1941. Like many military bases of that time, Camp Lejeune was not environmentally sound and was referred to as a “major polluter” in the 1970s. The marine corps has stated that they exposed the waste materials in those early years at the base, consistent with practices of the time, but records show that the marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains.
The primary source of water contamination was a dry-cleaning business that dumped wastewater into the drains for years. The contaminants included tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, a suspected carcinogen. PCE, which has multiple industrial uses and is another solvent and suspected carcinogen, was used widely by Marines on base to clean machinery. In response, the Marine corps maintained that those chemicals were not EPA regulated in the 1980s. In the early 1980s, organic solvents like PCE were not regulated. However, there were regulations in place by the Department of Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery that barred harmful substances in water. The dangers of organic solvents were known, and many military bases in the 1970s closed wells tainted with solvents.
Chemicals Found at Water Treatment Plants
Some of the common chemicals found at water treatment plants in the 1980s include:
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE): a liquid solvent primarily used in dry cleaning operations, textile processing, and metal manufacturing.
- Trichloroethylene (TCE): used as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts and an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, and spot removers.
- Benzene: 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 in the manufacture of detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and dyestuffs.
- Vinyl chloride: formed when other chemicals like TCE And PCE are broken down. It is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is, in turn, used to create various plastic products.
These chemicals are harmful and are proven to cause diseases, including cancer.
Health Effects of Exposure to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
More than 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The contaminants in the water are known to cause cancer and other serious illnesses. As a result of the water contamination, anyone who encountered the contaminated water for at least 30 days on the base may be at higher risk of developing multiple types of cancer.
One study found that U.S. Marines who served at Camp Lejeune from 1975 to 1985 had a 10% higher risk of dying from cancer compared to U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, a military base that did not have contaminated water. Researchers are still working to understand how the exposure may have affected people’s health and the long-term impact on the service members and their families.
Qualifying conditions include the below diseases associated with Camp Lejeune toxic chemical exposure to Camp Lejeune water within the contaminated water supply:
- Adult leukemia occurs when an adult patient’s body may begin to make abnormal blood cells. Adult leukemia can cause fever, exhaustion or tiredness, and easy bruising or bleeding. Symptoms can worsen quickly if the patient does not receive prompt treatment.
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes occur because the bone marrow cannot produce new cells fast enough to maintain normal body functions. Aplastic anemia may cause fatigue and difficulty fighting off infection in many patients.
- Bladder cancer may cause painful urination or back pain. While bladder cancer can prove mild if treated early, it can cause substantial complications if the patient does not receive treatment promptly.
- Esophageal cancer may cause pain or difficulty swallowing.
- Breast cancer may require the removal of breast tissue. Both male and female patients can develop breast cancer.
- Kidney cancer can cause pain, fever, tiredness, and unexplained weight loss. Like many types of cancer, kidney cancer proves highly treatable when identified in its initial stages. We have already spoken with countless veterans previously diagnosed with kidney cancer and exposed to Camp Lejeune water contamination.
- Lung cancer starts in the lungs and may result in difficulty breathing.
- Liver cancer can take several forms but may lead to abdominal pain, weakness, swelling, and other devastating symptoms.
- Multiple myeloma, cancerous cells crowd out healthy blood cells, producing proteins that may lead to complications throughout the body. Multiple myeloma may cause mental fogginess and confusion, weakness or numbness in the limbs, nausea, or fatigue.
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the abnormal growth of white blood cells and may lead to tumors throughout the body.
- Parkinson’s disease causes shakiness, stiffness, and uncontrolled weakness or movements in the body. Parkinson’s disease can also interfere with balance and coordination.
Patients exposed to the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune may also face other serious health issues such as potential infertility and severe neurological impairments, including difficulty concentrating and behavioral changes. The list of qualifying conditions and other challenges described above may not fully capture all health complications caused by the contaminated Camp Lejeune water.
Contact an Attorney if you Were Exposed to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
With the Camp Lejeune Justice Act included in the PACT Act, those exposed to contaminated water at the Marine Corps Base can file lawsuits for damages and injuries. Individuals stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, for 30 days or more are eligible to file a claim. If you or a loved one has been exposed to the Camp Lejeune water contamination and suffer from severe illness, contact our attorneys at Charles Boyk Law Offices. The V.A. has only allowed claims to be filed for the next two years, so don’t let the time run out to file your claim. We will walk you through the process so you and your family can receive compensation and begin your recovery.