You may be aware of the fact that bad waste disposal practices have been responsible for many health-related issues over the years, what you may not be aware of is the scale on which this happens and the course of action you should take if it has personally affected you. Water contamination is one of the leading causes behind chemical contamination related to diseases such as:
- Breast cancer in men and women – commonly misdiagnosed as fibroadenomas, blocked milk duct, breast cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, lipomas, fibroids, and pseudo angiomatous stromal hyperplasia;
- Reproductive disorders – frequently misdiagnosed as pregnancy, infertility, and cancer;
- Lung cancer – commonly misdiagnosed as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung abscess, lung nodules, pneumonia, pleural effusion, tuberculosis, pleural plaques, pulmonary embolism or gastroesophageal reflux disease;
- Ovarian cancer – frequently misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian cyst, urinary tract infection, changing menopausal status, and diverticulitis;
- Numerous types of other cancers and tumors.
One of the most mediatized cases is the situation at the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina, where it is estimated that nearly 1 million people including stationed troops, reserves, family members, and civilian employees were exposed to volatile chemicals between 1952 and 1987. Upon investigation it was uncovered that the water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride, all extremely harmful substances to the human body.
Caused by leaking underground storage tanks near the water treatment facilities, the contaminated water was used by the base’s housing complexes and barracks for every aspect of everyday life including bathing, cooking and drinking the contaminated water. The problems at Camp Lejeune didn’t stop in the 80s however, as in 2012 the base came under fire again after 12 pounds of mercury were found at the Hadnot Point Plant, leading to its closure for several weeks while the situation was cleaned up.
While responsible for a list of 15 different diseases and counting, one of the most common ones is breast cancer, with a large portion of diagnosed people being male, with 90 of them identified so far. A study conducted in the Environmental Health journal by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR) looked at marines born before 1969 who have been diagnosed with cancer and found that 30 out of the 444 marines they examined were stationed at Camp Lejeune for a period of time. This should raise an alarm considering that in the United States, male breast cancer is not as common as in females, with around 2000 cases per year. What is even more worrying is that some of those diseases may be passed through genetics.
Children born at Camp Lejeune, whose parents served or lived in the base have developed these cancers. Spending as little as 30 cumulative days on the base might have been enough for military families to become contaminated.
Despite many cases and testimonies from personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune, the U.S Army has denied all accusations in an attempt to avoid having to pay compensation to those affected, but considerable progress has been made in the last few years. So far, the U.S military has spent over $45 million on many studies to examine the link between the chemicals at Camp Lejeune and cancer, but a direct link has not yet been established, however, many studies are still on-going with the next large one expected to conclude in 2022.
What should you do if you came in contact with those chemicals yourself?
If you haven’t consulted a doctor yet you definitely should as even the shortest exposure can cause long-term damage. Those diagnosed with a disease connected to chemical contamination whether at Camp Lejeune or at another location may be entitled to healthcare and compensation.
President Barrack Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act in 2012, named after the daughter of a serviceman stationed at the camp who lost her life to cancer at only 9 years old. This Act authorizes medical care to military personnel and their families if they were stationed at Camp Lejeune. Furthermore, in early 2017 the VA allocated more than $2 billion in disability benefits to be used for the treatment and care of personnel connected to Camp Lejeune’s toxic exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
If you have served or lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 cumulative days from 1953 to 1987 and you didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge you may eligible for compensation.
About the author:
Gregory A. Cade is a trustworthy lawyer with over 25 years of experience in environmental and occupational law. Besides his scientific and legal approach, Gregory is reliable and dedicated – on a personal level – in helping injured victims. He is using his Industrial Hygiene degree in handling injuries resulting from exposure to asbestos, aqueous film-forming foam, volatile organic chemicals, and other known toxicants. Gregory A. Cade believes in authentic human connection and empathy, treating each and every client as an individual, not just as a case.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.