Has Contaminated Water from Camp Lejeune Caused Leukemia?

Those present at Camp Lejeune may have been exposed to water contaminated with toxic chemicals repeatedly for months, or even years, at a time. At Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one “source of the contamination was the waste disposal practices at ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaning firm,” according to a government agency. (1) Other areas of contamination included waste disposal facilities, fuel storage and processing, and several industrial sites. 

Testing of the water at Camp Lejeune found it to be contaminated with several toxic chemicals. These included trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene. (2)  

Scientific evidence exists to suggest TCE and benzene have a causative relationship with leukemia in people exposed. Of these chemicals, benzene had the stronger causative link. (3)

How Contaminated Was the Water? 

A TCE toxicology report noted water at Camp Lejeune was found to be “heavily contaminated with trichloroethylene and other chlorinated solvents.” (4) 

The TCE maximum average monthly contamination level at one of the base’s water treatment sites was estimated to be 783 parts per billion (ppb), with a high estimated at 1,400 ppb. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has noted an increased risk of cancer at levels above 5 ppb. Benzene was also detected, but at lower levels. (5) (6)

If you developed leukemia from contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, contact us today for a free case review.

Get a Free Case Review

Leukemias from Exposure to Toxic Chemicals at Camp Lejeune

Leukemias are blood cancers. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) notes there are different types, “Leukemia is a broad term for cancers of the blood cells.” NCI continues, “The type of leukemia depends on the type of blood cell that becomes cancer and whether it grows quickly or slowly.” (7)

WebMD explains, “Leukemia typically starts in your blood and bone marrow. You make so many white blood cells that you can’t fight infections. Your marrow can’t make enough of other vital blood cells: red blood cells and platelets.” (8)

One form of acute (fast growing) leukemia is especially concerning.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) 

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a form of fast-growing leukemia affecting myeloid cells. These cells develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In AML, these myeloid cells become abnormal. (9)  

DNA in your genes controls how your cells function. “Cancers (including AML) can be caused by mutations (changes) that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes,” according to the American Cancer Society. Oncogenes are “Genes that help cells grow, divide, or stay alive.” (10)

The American Cancer Society lists exposure to chemicals — benzene in particular— as a risk factor for AML. (11) Additionally, a study of toxic chemicals and health risk reported benzene exposure was “significantly associated’ with AML. (12)

Leukemia in Children from Camp Lejeune

Even more alarming is the impact of exposure on children. Many children and babies developed leukemia after their parents were exposed to chemicals from the water at Camp Lejeune.

Testing of Camp Lejeune mothers detected TCE in breast milk. The concentration of TCE in breast milk samples reached a maximum level of 6 ppb. This correlates with TCE detected in Camp Lejeune water used for bathing and laundry. (13) 

Because children drink, eat, and breathe in proportionately larger quantities than adults, they are more susceptible to a greater level of exposure. (14) 

Studies Examined Connection 

Scientific evidence supports that childhood leukemias could result from exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Several studies have examined the connection between childhood leukemias and exposure to hazardous waste. 

A study of children in Massachusetts — where there were “uncontrolled hazardous waste sites”— found a significant concentration of cases in one census tract. Researchers said, “Six of the persons with leukemia were located close to each other in one census tract, 7.5 times the expected number.” (15)

Unborn Babies Affected 

But the hazard risks do not just affect children, they can also affect unborn babies. In utero exposure to several toxins can cause childhood leukemia. According to one commentary on the Massachusetts study, “This fact suggests that prenatal exposures to other carcinogens can cause leukemia.”  (16)

Another study noted that higher duration and cumulative exposure to chlorinated solvents, including TCE and PCE, posed greater risk for serious illnesses. (17) 

What To Do If You Developed Leukemia and Were Exposed to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

The first thing you should do, if you developed leukemia because of exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, is to seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis. You need an accurate diagnosis in order to receive proper medical treatment. Additionally, a written medical diagnosis is essential support for any legal claims you may make.

The next step is to contact an attorney to discuss your claim. A lawsuit could help you obtain compensation for your medical bills, as well as pain and suffering.

Your attorney then reviews your case to ensure you are eligible to file your lawsuit against the U.S. government. 

Eligibility for Camp Lejeune Leukemia Lawsuits 

The criteria for eligibility to file a Camp Lejeune leukemia lawsuit is straightforward. Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, signed into law by President Biden, you can file a claim for relief if: (18) (19)

  • You worked, lived, or were present, including in utero, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987.
  • You were exposed to Camp Lejeune water for more than 30 cumulative days. 
  • You have one of a number of conditions, including leukemia, that the government has acknowledged have a causal relationship with the chemicals present at Camp Lejeune. 

You can file a lawsuit if you are a veteran, or family member of a veteran, or someone from the surrounding area who lived or worked on the base.

Documentation to Support Claims 

Regardless of military status or connections, anyone suffering severe side effects from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can file a claim. To support your claim, you want to provide as much documentation as possible. This may include:

  • Written medical diagnosis.
  • Bills and receipts for medical treatments, tests, prescriptions, etc.
  • Military records, including housing records.
  • Employment contracts.
  • School records.
  • Mortgage or rental payments.
  • Marriage license.
  • Birth certificate or adoption papers.

If you or a loved one developed leukemia after serving on Camp Lejeune, contact us today to understand your legal rights.

Get a Free Case Review

Legal Options

Your most effective option to seek compensation and justice for your injuries is to file a lawsuit. The successful outcome of your lawsuit could depend on the attorney you hire, so you want to ensure you choose wisely.

Your attorney should be compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced in both environmental and personal injury litigations. Ideally, your attorney has handled multiple complex legal cases. 

Weitz & Luxenberg has nearly 40 years of experience representing veterans and their families, along with a wide range of other clients, in personal injury cases. W&L is a nationally recognized leader in complex litigation against large organizations. 

We have a caring team of attorneys dedicated to the fight for justice on behalf of our clients.

How W&L Can Help

Weitz & Luxenberg proudly stands on our record of successful large scale environmental litigations. In these lawsuits, innocent and unsuspecting people, like you, have suffered from toxic chemical exposure. 

Here are a few of our successes:

  • Settlement for 100,000 plaintiffs in a lawsuit about Roundup weed killer resulting in cancer.
  • $65 million settlement for the Hoosick Falls community against major corporations for drinking water supply contamination with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). 
  • $423 million settlement for 153 public water providers in 17 states when water supplies were contaminated with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).