Posted on August 10th, 2020
The chemicals found at Camp Lejeune pose an unacceptable risk to human health. A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the effects of the contaminants found that Lejeune Marines had a 68 percent higher risk of multiple myeloma compared to the Marines stationed at other bases.
As many as one million Marines, sailors, civilian employees, and military family members at Camp Lejeune were exposed to various organic compounds - some at levels as high as 280 times what is considered safe under the law.
Local media reported that the base may also have been contaminated with radiological material most likely from the former Naval Field Medical Research Laboratory. Many of these chemicals were later found to cause cancer and other health problems, although not all of them were acknowledged as toxicants at the time of contamination.
In the 1970s, the EPA cited Camp Lejeune as "a major polluter", particularly for dumping oil, industrial waste, potentially radioactive materials, and other toxic substances into the storm drain.
One significant source of contamination was a nearby dry-cleaning business that for years dumped into drains sewage waste laden with dangerous chemical solvents. Those included tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, a suspected carcinogen. PCE, which has multiple industrial uses, was also used widely by Marines on base to clean machinery parts and equipment.
The practices continued until the end of the 1980s when the military instituted regulations for properly disposing of hazardous materials. By then, however, more than 1.1 million gallons of benzene-containing fuel stored in leaking underground storage tanks had seeped into the soil and adverse health consequences that came from consuming that toxic cocktail started to appear. Studies have shown that multiple myeloma is strongly associated with exposure to benzene and products containing benzene.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence that benzene causes certain cancers, including multiple myeloma. Chlorinated solvents like perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene are also tied to an increased risk of developing multiple myeloma.
The major effects of long-term exposure to benzene are on the blood and blood-forming tissues:
Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that affects plasma cells, one of the main types of white blood cells that are part of the immune system. It is important that multiple myeloma is diagnosed as early as possible to reduce the number of potential complications.
Veterans who are experiencing bone pain, unexplained bone fractures, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, vision problems, or chronic tingling or numbness, are encouraged to contact their primary care provider and to file a claim for compensation.