CDC Study Links Camp Lejeune Water to Cancer and Birth Defects

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed results of a long-awaited study linking tainted tap water at a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina to increased risks of serious birth defects and childhood cancers.

The study was released late Thursday by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It surveyed parents of 12,598 children born at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985–the year drinking water wells were found to contain contaminated chemicals found from a leaky fuel depot and a dry cleaner. Scientists have traced contamination at the base back to as early as 1953; however, 1968 was chosen as the start date due to the existence of computerized birth certificates.

The study concludes that babies born to mothers who drank the tap water while pregnant were four times more likely than women who did not drink the water, to have serious birth defects, such as spina bifida. A weaker but still significant link was found between leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosed before age 20 in those born at the base whose mothers were exposed to tainted water, the report said.

The CDC confirmed 15 cases of spina bifida and anencephaly, 24 oral clefts and 29 cancers. The study found children exposed in the first trimester were 1.6 times more likely to have childhood cancer than typically found in the population.

More than 100 cases of birth defects and childhood cancers were reported, but only the 52 cases confirmed by the CDC through medical records were included in the analysis.

“The Marine Corps has been telling everyone for a long time that they were waiting for science to speak. Well, the science has spoken,” said former Marine Corps drill instructor Jerry Ensminger of North Carolina, whose 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died of leukemia in 1985 after his family lived at the base.

We will see whether the Marine Corps will move to settle any of the many compensation claims from veterans and families who believe the water caused health problems. Claimants can file suit if a claim is rejected.

Scientists believe that up to one million marine veterans and family members may have been exposed to water tainted with chemicals from the 1950s to the mid 1980s. Contaminants included benzene, which is a component of gasoline as well as industrial solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride.

Nearly 230,000 people have signed up for a health registry because they think they were exposed to the polluted water. The report provides the most significant evidence yet that water may have harmed the health of those who mostly lived at the North Carolina base, including 19,350 who were from Florida, the second highest total in the nation behind North Carolina.

Some scientists believe that the contamination at Camp Lejeune may have been the worst ever in a large drinking water system.

Also of note, many of those who drank, cooked and bathed with the contaminated water have reported several types of cancers, from bladder and liver cancers to more than 85 men diagnosed with rare breast cancer.
“These are the highest levels of drinking water contamination in this country that I am aware of,” said Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who reported findings from a study back in March 2013.

We will keep you updated on any news regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination situation. For more information contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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