Southeastern North Carolina is home to one of the largest and some of the most important military populations in the United States, including the Marine installation at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Marines, Sailors and their families stationed at Lejeune from mid – 1953 through 1987 were exposed to toxic chemicals and drank and bathed in water contaminated with toxins. Volatile organic chemicals (VOC) include trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (also called perchloroethylene, or PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene, are known to have been present in the drinking water at levels far beyond what is considered safe.
The contamination stems from a nearby, off-base dry cleaning company using toxic solvents, on-base units using chemicals to clean military equipment, and poor storage and handling practices, including the dumping and burying of solvents.
Clusters of the disease have been seen in Marines and their families who were stationed at Lejeune during this time, including Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney cancer, cardiac defects, male breast cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. In February 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its report on the effects of water contamination. The report found that Lejeune Marines had about a 10 percent higher risk of dying from any type of cancer compared to the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton. Lejeune Marines had a 35 percent higher risk of kidney cancer, a 42 percent higher risk of liver cancer, a 47 percent higher risk of Hodgkin lymphoma, a 68 percent higher risk of multiple myeloma, and double the risk of ALS
A new federal cause of action circumvents North Carolina’s statute of repose that may have prevented some claims. Individuals affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune have a two-year window to file claims exclusively in the Eastern District of North Carolina (EDNC). Individuals who lived in Mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, Family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor, Tarawa Terrace family housing, Knox trailer park, Watkins Village between August 1953 and December of 1987 for at least 30 days, and have suffered health defects related to VOC’s may have a claim against the U.S. under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
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