Several military occupational specialties carry specific, unique risks that increase the chances of exposure to dangerous toxins, such as:
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Perchloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl chloride
- Vinyl chloride
- Halogenated hydrocarbons
- Ethyl chloride
For instance, chemical exposure at one of the Marine Corps' largest bases has been going on for decades. It continues to subject thousands of veterans and their family members to serious health risks. One significant source of contamination was a nearby dry-cleaning business that for years dumped into drains chemicals used in the cleaning process.
In February 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on the health impact of the contaminants found at Camp Lejeune. The report concludes that Lejeune Marines had about a 10 percent higher risk of dying from any type of cancer than the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton - one of the hundreds of bases under investigation by state and federal authorities for potentially hazardous environmental contamination. In addition, former Camp Lejeune Marines have a 35 percent higher risk of kidney cancer, as mentioned in the report.
Exposure to environmental chemicals is an important contributing factor in the development of kidney cancer
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified perchloroethylene - one of the most prevalent and health-hazardous contaminants found at Camp Lejeune - as a Group 2A carcinogen, which means that it is probably carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence for carcinogenicity in experimental animals and limited evidence in humans.
In 2009, a National Research Council committee reviewed the scientific evidence on the association between renal toxicity and exposure to industrial solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) identified at Camp Lejeune. The report included an in-depth examination of both human and animal studies of the renal toxicity induced by exposure to two solvents, both listed as "carcinogenic to humans":
Search results on trichloroethylene from a toxicology database that focuses on the toxicology of potentially hazardous chemicals indicate that long-term exposure to TCE in mice leads to kidney damage and cancer-associated molecular and cellular changes.
What former residents of Camp Lejeune who have kidney cancer need to know
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged that toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune increases the risk of kidney cancer. If you or someone dear has been affected by the environmental contamination at Camp Lejeune, you may be entitled to compensation for past, current, and future medical bills, lost wages, and loss of quality of life. Veterans exposed to toxic agents can also receive free healthcare from VA medical facilities.
The Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 applies to veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members who:
- were stationed within the borders of the entirety of the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,
- had service between August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, for no less than 30 days
The rule covers eight diseases presumed service-connected disabilities for purposes of entitlement to VA benefits, including kidney cancer. Importantly, because the VA will presume that your cancer is related to your service, you do not need to prove that your illness is connected to your military service.