Camp LeJeune, Bladder, and Kidney Cancer: What You Need to Know

doctors shaking hands with military veteran

If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, between 1953 and 1987, you were likely exposed to toxic drinking water. Although the water increased the risk of many different health conditions, bladder and kidney cancer are the most common. Thanks to a new law, the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, those who were exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune and have since been diagnosed with cancer or another qualifying condition may be eligible to file a lawsuit.

What Happened?

In 1982, the Marine Corps received notification that toxins were found in three of the eight water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune. Further investigation showed that the contamination had been present since 1953. It is believed to have come from a variety of industrial spills, leaking storage tanks, and runoff from businesses in the neighborhood. Despite knowing the risks, the Marine Corps continued to operate the base as normal, with no notification to those living and working there, until 1985. They removed most of the contaminated wells that year, but remediation was not fully completed until 1987.

What Toxins Were Found?

The drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with a variety of toxins known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These included:

  • Benzene. A compound used in the manufacturing of a variety of plastics, nylons, and other synthetics
  • PCE. Perchloroethylene, or tetrachloroethylene, is a metal degreaser and dry-cleaning chemical
  • TCE. Trichloroethylene is a solvent used in metal cleaning
  • VC. Vinyl chloride is the result of natural groundwater degradation of both PCE and TCE

These chemicals are known to increase the risk of cancer. But to confirm the risks, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a study that compared people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune with a control group. The study found an increased risk for bladder and kidney cancer in both Marines and civilians at Camp Lejeune.

What Should I Know About Bladder and Kidney Cancer?

Bladder cancer occurs in the tissues of the urinary bladder. It is most common in people over age 65, although high levels of toxic exposure could cause it to arise at a younger age. Symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain
  • Trouble urinating
  • Swelling in the legs and feet
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness

Kidney cancer affects the tissues of one or both kidneys. It is most common in those over age 45, although it could occur at a younger age in those with heavy exposure to toxins. Symptoms are very similar to those of bladder cancer, though a lump in the abdomen may also be noticed.

Both types of cancer are highly treatable if caught in the early stages, but both can be deadly if allowed to progress. If you have any signs of bladder or kidney cancer, it is extremely important to seek medical treatment right away.

Who's at Risk of Cancer from the Water at Camp Lejeune?

It is believed that between 500,000 and one million people were exposed to toxins at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. The toxic drinking water was not confined to a single area, but instead affected all parts of the base. It was found in family housing, barracks, administrative offices, and even schools. In short, if you lived or worked anywhere at Camp Lejeune during the specified period, whether as a member of the Marine Corps or a civilian, you are at increased risk for serious health conditions including cancer.

What Is the Honoring Our PACT Act and How Does It Affect Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?

Camp Lejeune is located in North Carolina, a state with legal loopholes that make it notoriously difficult to seek compensation. In addition, while more than $4 dollars in VA healthcare claims have been filed as a direct result of Camp Lejeune toxic water exposure, many of those claims were denied.

The Honoring Our PACT Act, signed by President Biden in August 2022, is a comprehensive law that improves both healthcare access and funding for veterans who were exposed to toxins while serving. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was originally introduced as separate legislation, but it eventually became a subsection of the Honoring Our PACT Act. Under this law, both veterans and civilians who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 are now able to seek justice.

How Do I Know if I Qualify for Compensation?

To qualify for compensation, you must have been exposed to the drinking water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days. If you only made a transient visit, you are not eligible. But if you were there for a combined 30 days during the more than three decades that the base had toxic water, you may qualify to file a lawsuit.

In addition, you must have been diagnosed with a qualifying health condition at some point after your 30 days at Camp Lejeune. In addition to bladder cancer and kidney cancer, there is a long list of qualifying conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Immune disorder
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Nerve damage
  • Non-cancerous kidney damage
  • Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rectal cancer

Because there are so many qualifying health conditions, it is best to seek legal advice if you spent time at Camp Lejeune and were later diagnosed with any type of cancer or another serious illness. You will need documentation of your time on base, as well as proof of your medical diagnosis. An experienced attorney will review your records and help you decide if a lawsuit is the right course of action for you.

Thanks to the Honoring Our PACT Act, the time to take action is now. If you or a loved one lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and were later diagnosed with a qualifying health condition, take advantage of our free case evaluation and we'll contact you with your options.

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