The Effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

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Thousands of military service members and their families were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. While it’s known that many of these victims have developed cancer, there are also serious neurobehavioral problems that have arisen in the Camp Lejeune population.

What Are the Neurobehavioral Effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

Possible neurobehavioral effects of Camp Lejeune water contamination are:

  • Headaches, insomnia
  • Coordination and balance issues, tremors, involuntary movements
  • Concentration and attention problems
  • Elevated stress levels
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts and mood disturbances
  • Confusion
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, memory problems
  • Learning disorders
  • Behavioral abnormalities
  • Inhibited academic performance
  • Birth defects

(Source: Committee on the Review of Clinical Guidance for the Care of Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation; Board on the Health of Select Populations; Institute of Medicine, Review of VA Clinical Guidance for the Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation, Characterization of Neurobehavioral Effects, 2015)

What Toxic Substances at Camp Lejeune Caused Neurological Damage?

Camp Lejeune water contained toxic substances for more than three decades. The most notable of these substances are:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)/Perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Benzene
  • Vinyl Chloride
  • DCE (trans 1,2-dichloroethylene)

Neurological effects of Trichloroethylene (TCE)/Perchloroethylene (PCE) at Camp Lejeune

TCE/PCE is considered the main contaminant at Camp Lejeune. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports neurological effects in its Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene (TCE). They report exposure to TCE may cause a range of symptoms including headache, nausea and signs of nerve damage.

Victims may experience visual impairment, tremors, loss of cognitive function and behavioral abnormalities. In scientific testing, animal exposure to TCE resulted in nerve disturbances, sensory impairment and decline in psychomotor function.

(Sources: ATSDR, CDC, Trichloroethylene, Background and Environmental Exposures to Trichloroethylene in the United States, 2019; Environmental Protection Agency, Camp Lejeune Military Res. Contaminant List; ATSDR, Lejeune Chemical FAQs)

Neurological effects of Benzene at Camp Lejeune

When cells are exposed to benzene, they may not work correctly. Damage may occur acutely or chronically. Symptoms may develop after breathing or ingesting benzene. U.S. authorities admit that exposure to benzene can cause physical abnormalities.

Studies report that humans show central nervous system effects when exposed to benzene. Immediate symptoms may include headaches, tremor, dizziness, confusion and unconsciousness. Findings suggest that benzene exposure is toxic to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves. In addition, researchers report that exposure to benzene in rats depressed electrical activity, produced tremors and increased sensory sensitivity. Researchers have found links to exposure in patients with neurological abnormalities.

For Camp Lejeune victims who may have suffered from benzene exposure, a wide range of neurological defects may become apparent.

(Source: CDC, Facts About Benzene; ATSDR, CDC, Benzene; Health Effects)

Neurological Effects of Vinyl Chloride at Camp Lejeune

Dizziness is the most common central nervous system effect of vinyl chloride. Headache, sleep disturbances and sensory problems are also frequently noted. Researchers report that nearly 70% of workers exposed to the substance in one setting developed peripheral neuropathy. Exposed workers frequently report numbness and pain in fingers as well as depressed reflexes. Long-term tissue damage can occur, causing several chronic maladies.

The ATSDR admits that vinyl chloride exposure is a likely cause of liver cancer among the Camp Lejeune population. Their research also suggests that vinyl chloride exposure may contribute to brain cancer, lung cancer, soft tissue cancer and liver cirrhosis for those exposed at Camp Lejeune. Neurological problems may occur in Camp Lejeune victims exposed to vinyl chloride.

(Source: ATSDR, CDC, Vinyl Chloride, Health Effects, 2006).

Neurological effects of DCE

DCE (trans 1,2-dichloroethylene) occurs when PCE degrades. It is flammable and irritating to humans. Manufacturers use DCE to make solvents and chemical mixtures. Central nervous system depression is noted in exposure studies, but effects did not seem long-lasting. It is listed as a hazardous substance by TURI.

In laboratory animal studies, DCE was moderately toxic. It is believed to be a neurotoxin to humans.

(Sources: K J Freundt, G P Liebaldt, E Lieberwirth, Toxicology, Toxicity studies on trans-1,2-dichloroethylene, PubChem, Trans 1,2-dichloroethylene, Hotchkiss, et. all., Acute toxicologic and neurotoxic effects of inhaled 1,2-dichloroethane in adult Fischer 344 rats, 2010, TURI, trans 1,2-dichloroethylene)

Other effects of Camp Lejeune water contamination

Neurobehavioral effects of Camp Lejeune water contamination are those related to the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles. Neurological abnormalities affect a wide variety of functions including thinking, mood and movement.

Problems with neurological function are only one type of harm that may result from toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune. If you have suffered from cancer or another health problem, it may also be related to water consumption at the military base. This article discusses only neurological problems from toxic water at Camp Lejeune.

(Source: UR Highland Medicine, What is a Neurologist?; Houston Methodist Leading Medicine, 6 Signs It’s Time to See a Neurologist)

Compensation for Neurological Impacts From Camp Lejeune

The statute of limitations for Camp Lejeune lawsuits is two years from the enactment of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. The filing end date is August 10, 2024, we can no longer accept additional Camp Lejeune cases. If you or a loved one have been injured in a similar situation, the Bringardner Injury Law Firm is here to assist. Call us at 843-380-5299 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Further reading:

ATSDR, Morbidity Study of Former Marines, Employees, and Dependents Potentially Exposed to Contaminated Drinking Water at USMC Base Camp Lejeune: A Summary of Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Study Design and Results, 2018 (Containing survey data from individuals living and working at Camp Lejeune for comparison with a similar group stationed at Camp Pendleton).

Environ Health, Affinity for risky behaviors following prenatal and early childhood exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated drinking water: a retrospective cohort study, 2011 (Finding that individuals exposed to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) before birth and during early childhood more frequently use two or more illicit drugs that individuals without such exposure).

Environ Health, Occurrence of mental illness following prenatal and early childhood exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated drinking water: a retrospective cohort study, 2012 (Results supporting a link between early exposure to tetrachloroethylene and increased mental health disturbances including bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder).

Science Direct, Trichloroethylene, 2014 (Summarizing various neurological effects of exposure to trichloroethylene including dermal and pulmonary absorption leading to inhibition of neurons with risk from acute and long-term exposure).

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