Trichloroethylene exposure greatly increases the risk of Parkinson's disease

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 19th, 2023

As a volatile, colorless liquid organic chemical, trichloroethylene has recently been found to have a strong association with Parkinson's disease in veterans and family members who spent time at Camp Lejeune. The level of trichloroethylene in one of the military base's water supplies exceeded the safe exposure limit by 280 times.

Trichloroethylene is used to make refrigerants and other hydrofluorocarbons but also as a degreasing solvent for metal equipment. It is also used in some household products, including cleaning wipes, aerosol cleaning products, tool cleaners, spray adhesives, paint removers, carpet cleaners, and spot removers. Within the military, it was mostly used to clean up weapons and equipment by service members. Trichloroethylene does not occur naturally and is created by chemical synthesis.

Exposure to this industrial solvent, which is a known carcinogen, is associated with many health issues, such as kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and liver cancer. Furthermore, trichloroethylene exposure can result in effects on the immune and reproductive systems, liver, and central nervous system and may impact fetal development during pregnancy. However, a recent study from JAMA Neurology found that exposure to this chemical increases the risk of Parkinson's disease significantly.

Veterans and family members exposed to trichloroethylene have a 70% higher risk of Parkinson's disease

While many people are exposed to the solvent through lingering air particles, soil, and groundwater, where it can remain for decades, veterans and family members who lived at Camp Lejeune while the drinking water was contaminated were heavily exposed to trichloroethylene, which is why they are now at high risk of developing Parkinson's disease, among many other health problems. In the previously mentioned study, the researchers compared Parkinson's diagnoses in approximately 160,000 Navy and Marine veterans. Over half of the participants came from Camp Lejeune, and the remainder came from Camp Pendleton, where the water was not contaminated.

Service members spent at least three months at these military facilities between 1975 to 1985, a time when trichloroethylene in the water at Camp Lejeune exceeded safety levels by 70 times. The researchers found that 430 veterans had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and that Camp Lejeune veterans' risk was 70% higher than in Camp Pendleton veterans. If you believe you have Parkinson's disease as a veteran or family member who spent time at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, you should look out for the following symptoms and seek medical attention if you experience some of them:

  • tremor in hands, legs, or head
  • muscle stiffness
  • impaired balance
  • slowness of movement
  • loss of automatic movements
  • speech and writing changes
  • impaired posture
  • trouble sleeping

In animal studies, trichloroethylene exposure causes selective loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, a hallmark of Parkinson's disease in humans. The connection between trichloroethylene exposure and Parkinson's disease was first hinted at in case studies over 50 years ago. In the intervening years, research in mice and rats has shown that the chemical readily enters the brain and body tissue and, at high doses, damages the energy-producing parts of cells known as mitochondria.

Trichloroethylene exposure, linked to miscarriage and birth defects

Moreover, trichloroethylene exposure has a strong connection with miscarriages and congenital heart disease. Prenatal exposure to the solvent via consumption of drinking water may increase the risk of miscarriage, central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, cardiac defects, oral cleft defects, and low birth weight. All of these issues are associated with drinking toxic water at Camp Lejeune, and due to the high trichloroethylene level present in it, it should come as no surprise that many people who spent time there now have children who struggle with these congenital defects.

Trichloroethylene in the bloodstream can easily cross the placenta and enter the developing baby. A pregnant woman's exposure to the chemical during the first two to eight weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's heart is developing, can increase the chance of having a child with a birth defect of the heart. Furthermore, according to recent evidence, trichloroethylene exposure during pregnancy can increase a baby's risk of immune disorders. Toxicology studies show that the solvent metabolites generate the following toxic effects in placental cell lines:

  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • apoptosis
  • oxidative stress
  • release of prostaglandins

Finally, it is worth noting that exposure to trichloroethylene over a long period of time can result in kidney damage, causing protein and sugar to leak from the blood into the urine. In turn, this might cause kidney cancer over the years. Trichloroethylene exposure is associated with an increased renal cancer risk, particularly among individuals carrying polymorphisms in genes that are important in the reductive metabolism of this solvent and provides biological plausibility of the association in humans.

It is important to know that if you developed Parkinson's disease after living at Camp Lejeune while the drinking water contained trichloroethylene, you might be entitled to financial compensation. Moreover, if your baby was born with a congenital defect, you can also seek legal recourse to obtain the money you deserve for your child's unjust suffering.

File your Camp Lejeune water contamination claim with the assistance of our experienced attorneys

With over 30 years of experience in pursuing compensation for toxic exposure victims, our attorneys will gladly evaluate your case if you are a veteran or a family member of one who spent time at Camp Lejeune and now struggle with a disease. The only documents veterans have to submit to have their case assessed are their military records, which they must retrieve, and their medical records. Family members who intend to file a claim will need to provide our legal team with evidence of their stay at the military base in addition to their medical records.

After a comprehensive evaluation of your case, you will know whether you are entitled to file a Camp Lejeune toxic water claim. Eligible veterans and family members will have their cases prioritized, as we understand that many struggle financially due to the high cost of treatment. If our endeavors are successful, you might obtain the maximum compensation you deserve for your physical and emotional distress. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not have to pay anything unless we recover money for you.