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Increased risk of multiple myeloma for veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune

By Michael Bartlett

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.

Sick veterans and family members point to the health-hazardous contaminants at Camp Lejeune

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.

Exposure to benzene - a causal factor for multiple myeloma

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:

  • Depletion of cells in the bone marrow
  • Bone demineralization
  • Alterations of red cell function
  • A low white blood cell count
  • Damage to the immune system

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.

If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953-1987 you may be entitled to VA benefits due to toxic exposure that leads to multiple myeloma

As part of its responsibility to evaluate health hazards at specific superfund sites, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has assessed activities related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. The agency concluded that the evidence linking benzene exposure to the development of myeloma is sufficient to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to consider a presumptive service connection based upon causal evidence.

Because multiple myeloma is a common illness associated with exposure to toxic substances at Camp Lejeune, veterans do not need to present a lot of information to the VA to receive service connection. In fact, the VA recognizes it as a presumptive condition, meaning that the VA presumes it was caused by ingestion of harmful substances at Camp Lejeune.

For a veteran to receive disability compensation, he/she must have a current medical diagnosis of multiple myeloma and show evidence that they were stationed at the US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, for at least 30 cumulative days. We can help you prepare for an initial claim as well as assist you throughout the appeals process if your application is met with a denial from the VA.