Who suffered Camp Lejeune exposure?
Although the exact number of Camp Lejeune exposure victims isn’t known, it is estimated that more than a million people were exposed and more than 500,000 people may have devastating health problems.
What caused Camp Lejeune water contamination?
Camp Lejeune water contamination has been traced back to two of eight water treatment plants on the base. The oldest of the two plants, Hadnot Point, was contaminated after discarded oil and other chemicals seeped into the ground and into the water. The plant also had an underground storage tank that leaked, sending even more chemicals into the water supply. The second plant, Tarawa Terrace, was contaminated by solvents improperly discarded by the nearby, off-base dry cleaning business.
What kinds of chemicals could be found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune?
Victims, including marines, their family members and workers at Camp Lejeune, ingested several types of toxins in the water known as volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene and vinyl chloride. TCE and PCE are chemicals that are used in dry cleaning and in cleaning metal parts of machines.
Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene also is used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. It is known to cause cancer in humans.
Vinyl chloride is a manufactured substance that does not occur naturally. It can be formed when other substances such as TCE and PCE are broken down. It is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and cable coatings and packaging materials.
Some of the chemicals found in Camp Lejeune water:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl chloride
- Polyvinyl chlorides (PVC)
What are the health effects of drinking Camp Lejeune water?
The toxins found in Camp Lejeune water are known to cause many different diseases and conditions, including cancers, birth defects and neurological disorders. The following are a few Camp Lejeune illnesses and conditions connected to the water contamination:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- All cancers
- Heart-related birth defects
- Multiple myeloma (a cancer of plasma cells)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- And more
Did the U.S. government know about the Camp Lejeune water contamination?
For years, government officials failed to publicly acknowledge that Camp Lejeune water was poisoned.
Records show the Marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains. Potentially radioactive materials were buried, including carcasses of dogs used in testing. The base even located a daycare in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored. A significant source of water contamination was a nearby dry cleaning business that for years dumped chemicals into drains.
A regulation on the books at Camp Lejeune as early as 1974 shows the Marine Corps knew the danger the organic solvents posed as the rule detailed how to safely dispose of such hazardous waste and warned they could contaminate drinking water. Tests of the Camp Lejeune water and report after report starting in 1980 and beyond confirmed contamination, but nothing was done. When the lies and denials began unraveling, the government relied on legal loopholes to avoid consequences.