Associations between the chemicals at the North Carolina base and a range of cancers

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on August 21st, 2020

Various scientific organizations found that past exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride at Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers. Marines and family members stationed at Camp Lejeune are beginning to develop cancers, some of which are extremely rare.

In 1974, Camp Lejeune officials acknowledged that they understood the risk posed by the chemical solvents and industrial materials that have seeped into the soil, and surrounding areas - sometimes hundreds of feet deep. However, it was not until late 1984 when military officials took any action. In November and December of that year, three wells were closed after tests revealed concentrations of trichloroethylene (TCE) ranging from 300 to 1,600 ppb, along with elevated levels of benzene and vinyl chloride - all classified as known human carcinogens by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As with many other Superfund Sites, the Marines and family members poisoned on this military base were not born here, nor did they settle here to make a permanent life. Instead, they were often here just for a short time, literally stationed at Camp Lejeune for weeks, months, or, at most, a few years. However, more and more Camp Lejeune veterans are beginning to develop cancers, some of which are extremely rare.

Camp Lejeune: from chemical exposure to cancer

According to the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer health estimates, exposure to toxic environmental agents is responsible for between 7% and 19% of human cancers. From at least 1953 through 1985, an undetermined number of residents, including infants, children, and civilian workers and personnel, were exposed to carcinogenic contaminants at Camp Lejeune. A carcinogen is any substance or agent with the capacity to cause cancer in humans. The exposure to carcinogens can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption of many different types of substances into our bodies.

Carcinogens work by interacting with a cell's DNA and inducing genetic mutations. These include a change in the rate of cell division, which increases the probability of abnormal DNA synthesis. This can lead to cancer - a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue.

Unlike many toxic health effects caused by chemical exposure, a carcinogenic effect may take many years to develop and there may be no early warning signs that patients should not ignore. This means a diagnosis of cancer may not be made until many years after a person's first exposure.

The accelerated onset of cancer among those stationed at Camp Lejeune compared to other bases

In 2014, as part of its responsibility to evaluate health hazards at specific superfund sites, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued a position on the environmental contamination at Camp Lejeune.

The agency found that compared to the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, a well-known Marine Corps Installation in California, active duty military members stationed at Camp Lejeune have about:

There is also some evidence that other cancers, such as cancers of the esophagus, rectum, and soft tissue, among others, may also occur if a person was exposed to dangerous chemicals at Camp Lejeune for a sustained period of time.

What is being done for veterans and family members exposed to carcinogenic contaminants at Camp Lejeune?

Finally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged that the environmental contamination at Camp Lejeune increases the risk of cancer.

In 2012, recognizing the weight of the scientific evidence, Congress passed the landmark Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, also known as the Janey Ensminger Act. It was named for Janey Ensminger, daughter of Marine Corps member Jerry Ensminger, who died of cancer when she was just nine years old.

Years later, her father discovered that she likely developed cancer after exposure to industrial solvents at Camp Lejeune, where his family lived when Janey was born. The Janey Ensminger Act makes it possible for non-military family members to apply for VA health care benefits.

Under the Act, if a veteran or veteran's family member was exposed to Camp Lejeune's toxic agents for more than thirty days and later develops a form of cancer, there is a rebuttable presumption that the disease was caused by the individual's toxic exposure.

Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. proudly supports veterans throughout the country. We applaud these latest efforts and hope that military personnel and their family members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and developed conditions linked to the chemical contamination will receive the financial compensation they deserve.

Camp Lejeune veterans and cancer claims

Were you, or someone you know, stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, between August 1, 1952, and December 31, 1987?

If yes, you can qualify for compensation if you served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the above-mentioned time period, due to exposure to industrial solvents.

If you have previously been denied benefits, don't hesitate to reach out to us. At Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., our lawyers can help you move forward in the process to recover fair compensation for the life-threatening diseases you came to struggle with.

Under the accelerated process established for Camp Lejeune victims, surviving military spouses or children may also be eligible for benefits if the deceased veteran was stationed at Camp Lejeune during the same period of time and died of one or more of the service-connected presumptive conditions.

For more information regarding Camp Lejeune's toxic exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, or to discuss a potential claim, please contact us today.