Camp Lejeune's drinking water was contaminated with several harmful chemicals, including benzene, vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) between 1953 and 1987. Estimates state that the United States Marine Corp Base's water quality affected over a million military members, civilian employees and their children. The United States Government denied responsibility for the high illness rates on the North Carolina base for a long time.
Water Contamination Causes Serious Illnesses
Although the contamination occurred over 30 years ago, many victims still suffer from ingesting those harmful chemicals. Former residents are being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, several types of cancer and other illnesses. Many children died young of cancer or were born with congenital disabilities. Those who were exposed also are prone to:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Aplastic anemia (a sickness where bone marrow doesn't produce enough blood cells)
- Autoimmune diseases
- Birth defect
- Cancer of kidneys, breast, appendix, bile duct, central nervous system, cervical, colorectal, gallbladder, intestines, ovaries, pancreas, prostate, sinus, spine, lung, liver, bladder, brain, lung, kidney, thyroid or esophagus
- Cardiac birth defect
- Cardiac defect
- Cardiac defects
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Cognitive disability
- Congenital malformation (microcephaly)
- Conjoined twins
- End stage renal disease
- Extensive tooth decay
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver syndrome)
- Hogkin’s lymphoma
- Hypersensitive skin disorder
- Kidney disease
- Miscarriage and fertility issues
- Multiple myeloma (plasma cell cancer)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (abnormalities in the body's blood cell production)
- Nephrotoxicity (kidney damage)
- Nerve damage
- Neurobehavioral disorders
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (lymphatic system cancer)
- Oral cleft defect
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
Camp Lejeune Legal History
The "presumptive service connection" was passed in 2008. It helps veterans who were disabled in some way that is presumed to be connected with their service. For Camp Lejeune, this act only acknowledges a limited number of the many illnesses the contamination causes. To receive help for any other condition, the patient must prove that the water contamination caused it.
Veterans were able to seek care for their Camp Lejeune illnesses through the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act that passed in 2012. Unfortunately, this legislation did not assist civilian employees or their families who were affected and only covered certain illnesses. The Department of Veteran's Affairs denied many claims.
North Carolina law also forbids citizens from seeking damages more than ten years after an incident. Since many diseases did not develop until later or were not known to be connected with the contaminated water at the time, many victims could not seek retribution.
Justice for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims
The Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act in early August 2022 and President Biden immediately signed it into law. This law will overrule the North Carolina law that prevents Camp Lejeune victims from suing for damages or wrongful death. To receive benefits, plaintiffs must prove that they or a loved one suffered harm from living at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. This law is the first Camp Lejeune legislation to assist civilian workers and their families, veterans, and their families.
Those who want to receive compensation must prove to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina that "a causal relationship exists" or evidence is "sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is at least as likely as not" between the Camp Lejeune water contamination and their family's health crises.