Benzene exposure, greatly increasing the risk of leukemia in veterans

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 20th, 2023

As a colorless and highly flammable liquid with a sweet odor, partially responsible for the aroma of gasoline, benzene is a known carcinogen. Exposure can cause leukemia, as well as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The chemical was lurking in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune during the last century in alarming concentrations.

Benzene occurs from both natural processes and human activities. Some of the natural sources of the chemical are volcanoes and forest fires, but it is also a part of gasoline, crude oil, and cigarette smoke. Some industries use benzene to manufacture other chemicals that are employed to make plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers. Furthermore, benzene is used to make some types of lubricants, detergents, rubbers, dyes, pesticides, and drugs.

At Camp Lejeune, benzene was found contaminating the drinking water at Hadnot Point during the last century. While there were multiple sources of benzene water contamination at the military base, perhaps the main one was 800,000 gallons of fuel leaking from the fuel farm. Benzene can easily infiltrate groundwater and, subsequently, drinking water supplies. As a veteran or family member who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, it is crucial to keep a close eye on your health, as benzene can cause serious diseases.

Benzene exposure can lead to diseases by causing healthy cells not to work correctly. For instance, it can cause the bone marrow not to create enough red blood cells, which can result in anemia. Moreover, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing loss of white blood cells. The extent of benzene poisoning depends on the amount, route, and duration of exposure, but also on the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person.

Camp Lejeune victims exposed to benzene have a 40% higher risk of developing leukemia

The major effect of long-term benzene exposure is on the blood, as it can eventually cause leukemia. Benzene exposure has been known for over a century to damage the bone marrow, which causes decreases in the number of blood cells and, ultimately, aplastic anemia. Often, having aplastic anemia places the person at a significantly higher risk of leukemia. The suggestion that benzene exposure could result in leukemia was more difficult to establish than the demonstration that it could induce aplastic anemia for researchers. It is important to note that benzene exposure can be responsible for multiple types of leukemia, including:

  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • acute myelogenous leukemia

Benzene exposure has been shown to cause chromosome changes in bone marrow cells, and similar changes are commonly found in human leukemia cells. Furthermore, benzene exposure may cause abnormalities in the DNA that controls the development of blood cells in your bone marrow. In turn, this can damage the immune system and raise the risk of developing leukemia. Benzene exposure has the strongest association with acute myeloid leukemia, even though there is scientific evidence that it can also cause other types. With acute myeloid leukemia, changes to the DNA that control the production of blood cells can cause white blood cells to form abnormally.

Exposure to benzene induces cytogenetic alterations such as aneuploidy, which can lead to altered gene expression and DNA methylation and translocations, which produce chimeric oncoproteins. Critical genes may also be targeted through gene mutation or epigenetic alteration. Interestingly, benzene exposure causes hematotoxicity even in people exposed to levels below the U.S. permissible exposure limit of 1 part per million, which means that veterans and family members who spent time at Camp Lejeune are at high risk of acute myeloid leukemia if their drinking water source was Hadnot Point.

If you lived at Camp Lejeune as a veteran or family member, drank toxic water, and now suspect you might have developed leukemia, you should pay attention to the following symptoms and seek medical attention if you experience any of them:

  • pale complexion
  • weakness and breathlessness
  • anemia
  • frequent infections
  • easy bruising and bleeding
  • fever or chills
  • tiny red spots on your skin
  • swollen lymph nodes

While a strong association between benzene exposure and multiple myeloma has not been established by researchers, Camp Lejeune water contamination victims can file a claim for this diagnosis, and so can they for aplastic anemia, which has a link to benzene exposure. It was found that benzene exposure increases the risk of chronic myeloid leukemia by 23% times. Regardless of what type of leukemia you have, you might be entitled to financial compensation, so do not hesitate to contact our skilled attorneys for a free-of-charge case evaluation.

File your Camp Lejeune toxic water claim with the assistance of our diligent attorneys

For the past 30 years, our law firm has been dedicated to pursuing toxic exposure cases, and many of our clients are veterans in your situation. If you spent time at Camp Lejeune while the drinking water was toxic and now struggle with a disease, we encourage you to contact us and find out whether you are eligible to file a claim. As a veteran, you will only have to submit your military records, which you must retrieve, and your medical records. Family members seeking legal recourse will need to send us evidence of their stay at the military base in addition to their medical records.

After a thorough and careful assessment of your case, we will let you know whether you qualify for compensation. The legal process is simple and will mostly take place over the phone, as we are aware that most Camp Lejeune water contamination victims are in a lot of physical and emotional pain. Eligible individuals will have their claims prioritized and expedited, as we understand that many struggle financially due to the high cost of treatment. Eventually, if our efforts are fruitful, you will obtain the money you deserve for your unjust suffering. We operate on a contingency fee basis.