Adverse Effectsof Camp LejeuneToxic Drinking Wateron Children
From 1953 to 1987, Marines and other military personnel and their families may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water. Reports claimed that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like Vinyl Chloride. Vinyl Chloride (VC) has been associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), brain and lung cancers, as well as lymphoma and leukemia.
Tests of the drinking water have uncovered other chemical contaminants such as Benzene. Benzene can affect bone marrow that makes red blood cells leading to anemia and leukemia. Reports also confirmed that Trichloroethylene (TCE) was present in water samples. TCE is a carcinogen that has been linked to kidney cancer, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Perchloroethylene (PCE) was another contaminant found in the Camp Lejeune drinking water. PCE contamination has been indicated to cause visual impairments such as color discrimination and visual memory issues, but also central nervous system problems and the ability to process information. Both TCE and PCE are industrial solvents, and both have been linked to birth defects.
Along with the military service members who served at Camp Lejeune, the toxic drinking water also affected their families, including children who were born during the time spent at the base. The children have suffered various illnesses and conditions that are linked to the toxins found in the drinking water at the base.
In a study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), thousands of parents were surveyed to discern if the exposure to the Camp LeJeune, VOC-contaminated drinking water could be linked to birth defects or childhood cancers. The participants reported 106 cases, which included 42 oral clefts, 35 Neuro Tube Defects (NTDs), and 29 childhood hematopoietic cancers that included non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and leukemia. Out of the reported cases, ATSDR obtained medical record confirmation with the following results: 13 cancers, 15 NTDs (spina bifida and anencephaly), and 24 oral clefts (cleft palate and cleft lip).
Although there is speculation that from 1959 to 1990 there were hundreds of fetal deaths at camp Lejeune, the ATSDR stated in a study that there was simply not enough empirical evidence to link fetal deaths to exposure to VOCs. However, in Jacksonville, NC at a national cemetery, there is a section that is referred to as “Baby Heaven” or “Babyland” due to the multitude of babies that died from 1959 to 1990. That being said, there is evidence that does suggest a correlation between babies born with low birth weight and the water contamination.
The Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry published a study in 2014. This study purported that there is evidence to suggest that mothers who had preterm exposure to contaminated drinking water from 1968-1985 at Camp Lejeune had babies that were small for gestational age (SGA) or had term low birth weight (TLBW) or a mean birth weight (MBW) deficit. Of the mothers included in the study, there were two categories studied. The first was unexposed (if mothers did not reside at Camp Lejeune or if they received uncontaminated drinking water) and the second category were those who were exposed (if the mothers did not fall into the first category at Camp Lejeune). There were also four different levels: less than median value, greater than or equal to median value, greater than or equal to 75th percentile and greater than or equal to 90th percentile. When the study was completed, the conclusion presented findings which suggested a correlation between in utero exposures to benzene and TLBW; TCE and SGA; PCE and preterm birth; and TLBW and reduced MBW.
Low Birth Weight
Neural Tube Defects
There were 15 Neural Tube Defects (NTD) medically documented from the ATSDR study of Camp Lejeune’s water. A NTD is a severe birth defect of the brain and spine, the neural tube becomes the brain and spine early in the pregnancy. Often, the neural tube forms before the woman even knows she is expecting. These defects occur when the neural tube does not close properly in utero development. The most common NTDs are spina bifida, of which there are three forms (Myelomeningocele, Meningocele, and Spina Bifida Occulta), and anencephaly is the other most common NTD.
Spina bifida can occur anywhere along the spine if the neural tube does not close all the way. When the neural tube fails to close completely, the vertebrae that is supposed to protect the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should. This may result in damage to the spinal cord and nerves. Spina bifida can cause mild to severe physical and intellectual difficulties.
Anencephaly is a serious NTD birth defect in which the upper part of the neural tube does not fully close. When this occurs, a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. If the neural tube does not close, then parts of the brain, skull and spinal cord do not form. Oftentimes, babies with this birth defect are born without the front part of the brain called the forebrain, and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain the cerebrum. The other parts of the brain are usually not covered by skin and bone. Most babies born with anencephaly do not live past 15 hours.
Leukemia and other blood disorders like anemia were also linked to VOCs. The ATSDR study suggested that Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was linked to childhood cancers like leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer that attacks the body’s blood-forming tissues, which include bone marrow and the lymphatic system. There are several types of leukemia, some forms which affect children and some affect adults. In either case, what happens with leukemia is there is an overabundance of white blood cells, and the ones that are produced do not fight infections as they should. Eventually the white blood cells start affecting organ function.
If you have a child who was exposed to the toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune either before or after birth, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Krause and Kinsman to find out if you have a claim and are eligible for renumeration.