Trichloroethylene exposure increases the risk of developing gallbladder cancer among veterans
The gallbladder is a tiny organ on the right side of the abdomen whose purpose is to store bile. Bile helps the digestive system break down fats.
Women are more susceptible to developing gallbladder cancer than men. Unfortunately, this disease is difficult to diagnose in the early stages. The symptoms of gallbladder cancer include a lump on the right side of the abdomen, the yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin, and unexplained weight loss.
Only 20% of people with this cancer survive for five years or longer. These are some of the health complications of gallbladder cancer:
- intense abdominal pain
- rapid heartbeat
- high fever
- tumor recurrence
- narrowed or blocked bile duct
While gallbladder cancer is rare, it represents nearly 50% of all biliary tract cancers. Because most people are diagnosed when the disease is in advanced stages, gallbladder cancer is often fatal. A study from the medical journal Cancer Causes & Control found that exposure to trichloroethylene increases gallbladder cancer risk. Furthermore, exposure to methylene chloride also entails a higher risk of gallbladder cancer. ABC One-Hour Cleaners was a dry-cleaning firm two miles southeast of Camp Lejeune. During the last century, the company disposed of toxic chemicals improperly, greatly contributing to the contamination of the military base.
Perchloroethylene was just one of the toxic solvents ABC One-Hour Cleaners would release into the water of Camp Lejeune by the septic tank system, and everyone who lived there was inevitably exposed to it every time they drank water. Other solvents associated with gallbladder cancer that lurked on Camp Lejeune include:
- 1,2- dichloroethane
- methylene chloride
- halogenated hydrocarbons
- vinyl chloride
- carbon tetrachloride
It is important to note that the source of some of these solvents on Camp Lejeune was also service members using and disposing of hazardous products after cleaning up weapons and equipment. A study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found a significant increase in the incidence of gallbladder cancer in female textile workers regularly exposed to solvents for one year. Between 75% and 90% of people with gallbladder cancer have a history of gallstones. Therefore, if you are a Camp Lejeune veteran who also has gallstones, we strongly encourage you to keep a close eye on your health, as your risk of gallbladder cancer is considerably higher.