Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina, faced a grave environmental crisis when its water supplies became contaminated with toxic chemicals for decades. This contamination has raised serious concerns about its health effects on those who lived and worked on the base during that time.
Since then, many scientific studies have been conducted to analyze and explore the effects of contamination on health, the environment, and future generations.
These studies aim to establish solid evidence linking chemicals to severe health risks, thereby helping individuals assert their legal rights. If you are a victim of that incident, then this article is just for you.
In this article, we will delve into the world of research surrounding Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water supply.
Understanding the Chemical Composition
Scientists have conducted extensive research to uncover the chemical composition of the contaminants that plagued Camp Lejeune’s water supply.
Many studies conducted by the U.S. government identified four primary culprits: trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride.
According to TorHoerman Law, exposure to these chemicals can lead to severe health conditions, including cancer and neurological disorders. Let’s understand these toxic chemicals one by one:
Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene
Trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene are types of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are a group of substances that can turn into vapor or gas quite easily. They are commonly used as cleaning agents and in things like solvents and fuels.
Both TCE and PCE are used for tasks like cleaning metal parts of machines and dry cleaning. Exposure to these toxic substances leads to health problems like cancer and birth defects.
Benzene, a colorless liquid, serves as a building block for various industrial chemicals. These chemicals, in turn, are used to manufacture products like nylon, plastics, and synthetic fibers. Benzene is naturally present in sources such as cigarette smoke and gas.
A recent study published in the National Library of Medicine has identified connections between prostate cancer and the levels of benzene and ethylbenzene.
These findings indicate that being exposed to certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the surroundings might increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
Vinyl chloride is typically a gas when at room temperature, and it remains gaseous when either cooled or placed under high pressure. This synthetic chemical is employed in the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is used by manufacturers to make items like pipes, packaging materials, and coatings.
Studies have established a connection between exposure to vinyl chloride and various health problems, including liver cirrhosis, cancer, and other adverse medical conditions.
Examining the Long-Term Health Consequences
Several scientific studies have been dedicated to confirming the long-term health consequences experienced by those exposed. These studies play a pivotal role in providing clarity on the lasting impacts of the contamination on individuals and their communities.
Many of these studies revealed health conditions such as cancer rates, birth defects, and neurological disorders among Camp Lejeune residents.
A recent study in JAMA Neurology suggests that exposure to TCE at Camp Lejeune may elevate the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
The study discovered that veterans from Camp Lejeune had a 70% higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. This risk was in contrast to veterans stationed at another Marine Corps base where the water supply remained uncontaminated.
There are numerous studies pointing to the outbreak of various severe diseases following the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The incident primarily occurred due to government negligence and lax behavior. However, the U.S. government later acknowledged its mistake and enacted various laws to support the victims.
One significant development in this regard is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, enacted to provide compensation to the victims. In August 2022, this act was approved and signed into law by President Biden.
This legislation acknowledges the need to address the long-term health consequences of Camp Lejeune water exposure. It also aims to provide assistance to those who have suffered as a result.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Beyond the health implications, scientific studies have delved into the environmental impact of the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Understanding how this crisis has affected the local ecosystem is essential for comprehensive remediation efforts.
In the aftermath of the incident, environmental studies focused on factors such as soil and groundwater contamination, as well as the overall health of the local flora and fauna.
Many such studies help identify the sources of contamination and how it has spread over time. They also shed light on the potential risks to wildlife and nearby communities. This, in turn, adds to the understanding of the long-term consequences of the contamination.
Drawing lessons from historical events, Camp Lejeune has taken the lead in advocating for environmental health and cleanliness. The Environmental Management Division oversees 72,000 upland forests, 49,000 wetland acres, 26,000 acres of water, and 7,500 developed acres.
These efforts were recognized by government agencies, leading to them receiving numerous awards. For the second consecutive year, the Division was recently honored with the 2022 Secretary of the Navy Environmental Award in the “Environmental Restoration, Installation” category, as well as the 2022 Secretary of Defense award in the same category.
Analyzing the Trace of the Contamination Sources
Understanding the origins of the Camp Lejeune water contamination is a crucial aspect of scientific inquiry. Researchers have discovered that the two major water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune were tainted with toxic chemicals.
Researchers at the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant examined VOCs in the base’s drinking water. These VOCs, such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), were identified in 1982.
The Hadnot Point water treatment plant, another critical water source at Camp Lejeune, also drew the attention of scientific studies. Like Tarawa Terrace, this plant became a focal point due to the detection of VOCs in the drinking water.
The discovery of contaminants in the water supplied by Hadnot Point raised questions about the duration and concentration of the contamination.
Analyzing these sources of contamination is essential in assessing the overall impact on the health of those who suffered from the contaminated water. Understanding the specifics of contamination sources is vital for effective mitigation efforts.
The impact of this environmental crisis is multifaceted and far-reaching. While the research has provided essential insights into the crisis, it also underscores the urgency of addressing the complex challenges it presents.
From understanding the health risks to tracing contamination sources, these scientific studies form the foundation for informed decision-making and policy changes.
About The Author:
Stacey Smith is a freelance health writer. She is passionate about writing about women’s health, dental health, diabetes, endocrinology, and nutrition and provides in-depth features on the latest in health news for medical clinics and health magazines.