Breathing in benzene vapors can damage reproductive organs and cause infertility
Benzene was detected in the water system at Tarawa Terrace, which served a family housing and a trailer park, in 1985. Still, the chemical was also present in the soil and in the products service members would use to clean up weapons and equipment. Therefore, benzene exposure occurred by inhalation and ingestion at Camp Lejeune.
A negative reproductive impact has been reported among women exposed to a high benzene level, and adverse effects have been observed in the developing fetus in animal tests. Furthermore, a high benzene exposure level was linked to the following birth defects:
- non-isolated truncus arteriosus
- coarctation of the aorta
- total anomalous pulmonary venous return
Exposure to trichloroethylene, another solvent present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, was found to increase a baby's risk of cardiac defects and immune disorders. The chemical produced cardiac defects in rats when exposure occurred during the course of gestation. This birth defect was found in rat studies not only with trichloroethylene but with its metabolites, suggesting that the solvent may need to be metabolized to cause the birth defect. Trichloroethylene was also associated with cardiac defects in a human study in which a neighborhood's soil was contaminated with it.
Heavy metals are reprotoxic, too. Approximately 12 pounds of mercury were found in a pipe at Hadnot Point, a water plant located in the center of Camp Lejeune. It is important to note that mercury does not break down in the environment, so once there, it persists and cycles between air, soil, plants, and animals for extended periods. A study from the Journal of Dentistry mentions that exposure to high mercury concentrations increased the risk of reproductive disorders such as infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and congenital malformations in experimental animal studies.
The reproductive effects of the hazardous contaminants at Camp Lejeune on the reproductive system of men and women can manifest as:
- alterations in sex hormone levels
- diminished libido and potency
- menstrual disorders
- premature menopause
- delayed menarche
- ovarian dysfunction
- impairment of semen quality
- reduced male and female fertility
Finally, exposure to PFAS disrupts normal reproductive function in women by altering hormone secretion, menstrual cyclicity, and fertility, according to a study from Environmental Research. The researchers observed that PFAS found in follicular fluids was linked to an increased risk of some infertility factors, and increased age was associated with decreased fertilization rate. PFAS exposure also has a significant association with gestational diabetes, childhood obesity, preeclampsia, and fetal growth restriction.