Posted on August 14th, 2020
Benzene - a natural part of crude oil and gasoline - was found in a well near the Hadnot Point fuel farm at Camp Lejeune, NC at levels of 380 parts per billion. Used as a solvent in many industries, benzene is a known carcinogen that can lead to a variety of hematological manifestations, including aplastic anemia.
From the 1950s through the mid-1980s, health-hazardous substances contaminated the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. These chemicals - volatile organic compounds, mainly trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene, (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene - have led to a variety of different illnesses, including aplastic anemia, and other blood-related complications.
Benzene is a known human carcinogen. Long-term exposure, such as what happened at Camp Lejeune, can cause several types of leukemia, and other blood disorders, such as aplastic anemia. In July 1984, tests revealed benzene at dangerously high levels in a well near the base's Hadnot Point Fuel Farm.
According to a summary of the tests, benzene concentration far exceeded the safety limit set by federal regulators, which was at 5 parts per billion. Spills and leakage from underground fuel storage tanks have been considered the main source of benzene exposure. Aplastic anemia - a rare, potentially fatal disease - is a form of bone marrow failure. Bone marrow failure occurs when the bone marrow - the soft, spongelike tissue inside the bones - fails to produce enough healthy blood cells to keep up with the body's needs. The strong exposure-response relationship between benzene and bone marrow suppression has been recognized since 1897.
Veterans and family members who served in active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more, were contaminated with chemicals from the base water treatment facilities and a dry cleaning company in the local area.
Failure to comply with service periods shorter than 30 days ignores the likelihood of regular and repeated exposure to contaminants through multiple pathways. The National Research Council of the United States explored three major routes of exposure to contaminants: inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact and noted that doses of contaminants from showering could provide dermal and inhalation exposures that are equivalent to ingesting two liters of water, as the temperature of water impact the volatility of the contaminants.
Accordingly, researchers argued that when taking into account multiple modalities of exposure, the exposure to contaminants could be much greater in a shorter time period than compared to 30 days of drinking the water.
Veterans who suffer from aplastic anemia and were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the specific timeframe are entitled to presumptive service connection. This means that they do not need to prove their condition is related to time in service because the VA presumes it is. Consequently, any military service members, from any branch of service, as well as the Guard and reserves, who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for a period of at least 30 days - consecutive or cumulative - between the dates of August 1, 1953, through and including December 31, 1987, are entitled to service-connected disability compensation if they have developed aplastic anemia.
Surviving spouses of veterans may also be eligible for benefits if their deceased veteran spouses were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the same period of time and died from the cause of one or more of the service-connected presumptive conditions.