Cancers and Illnesses Caused By Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Written by John D. Hawkins on . Posted in .

As many as one million people were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune from approximately August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. The report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicates that both military and civilian staff, along with their families, may have been affected.

Ultimately, the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune water contamination is considered one of the worst public health issues in the history of the United States. It lasted for over thirty years and affected a huge number of people — and the toxic chemical contamination levels were extremely high.

Some of those exposed to contaminated water have developed prostate cancer and other illnesses. The health effects of exposure have been severe. Hearing the word cancer from your doctor is no doubt terrifying for you and your family. Further, knowing that it was preventable is likely infuriating. HawkLaw, P.A. is here for anyone affected by the negligence found at Camp Lejeune and wants to seek compensation.

What Are the Camp Lejeune Contamination Symptoms?

Camp Lejeune in North Carolina had contaminated water for decades. Unfortunately, it went without detection, and many people consumed and used the water for everyday needs, including drinking water and bathing.

Exposure to various toxins in the water has created a serious health concern for those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune. However, the symptoms may not have appeared until years or even decades later. For some, that means that they have not yet realized the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may have caused their health concerns.

The symptoms vary based on exposure to each individual toxin. Here is an overview of the toxins, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the related symptoms:

PCE (Tetrachloroethylene or Perchloroethylene)

PCE was the main contaminant found at the Tarawa Terrace Treatment plant at Camp Lejeune. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the source of the contamination was ABC One-Hour Cleaners, which was an off-base dry-cleaning company.

Medical conditions caused by exposure to PCE include bladder cancer and others. PCE might also be associated with the following medical conditions or symptoms:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Congenital disabilities (including miscarriage, low birth weight, and oral cleft defects)
  • Neurological damage (including neurobehavioral effects)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Prostate cancer

The above list is just an example of the full range of health concerns associated with PCE.

These health conditions often take years to develop, making it harder to connect medical conditions and exposure. If you have any of these medical conditions, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether exposure to PCE might be the cause.

TCE (Trichloroethylene)

Over time, PCE will degrade groundwater into other toxins and solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE). Companies and individuals use both of these chemicals in dry cleaning and cleaning the metal parts of machines.

In addition, TCE was the main contaminant in the water supply at the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant at Camp Lejeune. This contamination was especially prevalent — the current limit for drinking water is 5 μg/L. In May 1982, the level of TCE in the water was 1,400 μg/L — 280 times what the limit is today.

Exposure to TCE can cause:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Cardiac defects

TCE might also be related to an increased risk for:

  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • End-stage renal disease (renal toxicity)
  • Scleroderma
  • Esophageal cancer

Like exposure to PCE, these medical conditions may take years to develop.

Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride (VC) is actually a colorless gas at room temperature. However, it remains a liquid at low temperatures or under high pressure. It is not a natural substance and will only form when other substances (like TCE and PCE) break down. It is commonly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is found in many plastic products like pipes, packaging materials, and wire coatings.

To date, no formal studies conclusively indicate that VC causes any particular symptom or medical condition. However, VC has been associated with the development of:

  • Brain cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Soft tissue cancer
  • Liver cirrhosis

The scientific evidence that shows this connection is not conclusive enough to warrant the label of causation, but there is a strong correlation.


Benzene is also commonly found in plastics. It is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor that evaporates very quickly. It occurs naturally in volcanoes and forest fires but is also part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.

Benzene is known to cause several types of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is also linked to aplastic anemia, miscarriage, and myelodysplastic syndromes.

What Diseases Qualify for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits for service members who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days from August 1953 to December 1987 and were affected by the contaminated drinking water. Veterans who did not receive a dishonorable discharge can get benefits.

The VA presumes that the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune caused any of the following medical conditions. Here, we have included the likely VOC associated with each condition for your reference. You likely already qualify for benefits if you have any of these conditions:

Adult leukemia

  • TCE
  • Benzene

Any myelodysplastic syndrome (including aplastic anemia)

  • Benzene
  • Vinyl Chloride

Bladder cancer

  • PCE

Kidney cancer

  • TCE

Liver cancer

  • TCE
  • Vinyl C

Multiple myeloma

  • TCE
  • PCE

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • TCE
  • PCE
  • Benzene

Parkinson’s disease

  • PCE
  • TCE

The service member and their family might also be able to receive healthcare benefits from related conditions, including miscarriage, female infertility, scleroderma, and many other diseases. The VA might also cover other types of cancers.

Prostate cancer

  • PCE
  • TCE

Rectal cancer

  • PCE
  • TCE

Cancers of the brain

  • TCE
  • PCE

Breast cancer

  • TCE
  • PCE

Agency for Toxic Substances Cancer Study

The Agency for Toxic Studies and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is working on a cancer incidence study to determine the connection between the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and cancer occurrence. They are studying Marines and Navy personnel and their families who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985.

At the same time, the ATSDR is also studying a comparative group from Camp Pendleton. This camp was not known to have drinking water contaminated with volatile organic compounds, so it is a control group to help determine correlation or causation.

The study is ongoing, and ATSDR expects the total amount of time necessary to gather and analyze the data will be about five years.

What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, a part of the male reproductive system. It produces the fluid that makes up part of semen.

The prostate tends to increase in size as men age, which can cause issues with urine flow. As a result, some prostate enlargement is normal. However, prostate cancer occurs when the cells in the prostate grow out of control. Prostate cancer starts in the prostate before moving to other body parts.

The symptoms of prostate cancer vary from person to person but can include the following:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that does not go away

If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about it. Catching prostate cancer early is the best way to combat it.

Your doctor will do a biopsy of your prostate to screen for prostate cancer. A biopsy is when a doctor takes a small piece of tissue from the prostate for testing. Once tested, if they find cancer, they will give it a score to determine how likely it is to spread. The score ranges from 2 to 10, and the higher the score, the more likely the cancer will spread.

Is Prostate Cancer Fatal?

All cancers can be fatal. Accordingly, prostate cancer is not always fatal, but it can be.

Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from it, but about 1 in 41 men will die of prostate cancer. Getting screened and being proactive will help you catch it quickly so you can treat it right away. The prognosis for prostate cancer is the best among the various types of cancer that can occur.

In fact, the five-year prognosis for a man with prostate cancer after diagnosis is nearly 100% — or the same as a man who does not have prostate cancer. Even the 15-year survival rate is 95%. As long as a man does not ignore symptoms, the likelihood of survival is high.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

In some situations, prostate cancer is unlikely to grow quickly. Under those circumstances, your doctor might not recommend any treatment at all. They might just want to watch it actively to be sure it does not grow any further. Treatment may not happen until the cancer grows or you experience symptoms.

Treatment might include a prostatectomy, an operation that removes the prostate. You might also need to go through radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.

Other treatment options might include:

  • High-intensity focused ultrasound
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Biological therapy

Work with your doctor to determine which treatment may be the best option for your unique situation.

What VOCs Are Linked to Prostate Cancer?

TCE and PCE may be linked to prostate cancer. Exposure to the high levels in the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has been associated with higher instances of prostate cancer among military servicemembers, employees, and family members on base.

Do You Have Prostate Cancer and Want to File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit in South Carolina?

Those eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit include anyone who lived or worked at or around Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from August 1953 to December 1987. This applies to those in military service and civilian workers.

Families affected might also have a legal claim, including those who lived on base or lost a loved one who lived on base. You do not have to be a Marine or part of the Navy to have a legal claim. You also did not need to be on active duty while at Camp Lejeune.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 permits family members and dependents to file a claim if they have a deceased relative who passed because of a medical condition caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

If you or a loved one has a serious health condition that might be associated with contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune, talk with HawkLaw to learn more about your legal options.

How Do I File a VA Claim for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

You may qualify for VA benefits if

  • You served at Camp Lejeune any time from 1953 to 1987 (or you are a family member of a military veteran who served during that time).
  • You did not receive a dishonorable discharge from the military.

If you believe you qualify for VA disability benefits or any other type of claim, the first step is to hire an attorney with experience in these situations. You have a limited time to assert your legal rights, and having the South Carolina attorneys at HawkLaw on your side will help you submit your claim within the narrow two-year time frame.

The Administrative Claim Procedure

Before you can file a lawsuit, you must go through the administrative process to claim disability benefits. HawkLaw will file an administrative claim on your behalf with the Judge Advocate General for the Department of the Navy.

Once HawkLaw goes through that process, the Department of the Navy has six months to approve or deny your claim for disability compensation. Only those claims that are denied will move on to a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.

So far, as of September 2022, thousands of claims have been filed in federal court. Based on an estimate from Reuters in mid-September 2022, attorneys representing Camp Lejeune expect that claimants and their families will assert up to 500,000 claims during the short two-year period available to file lawsuits.

Proving Your Camp Lejeune Claim

Unlike other cases, you do not have to meet the higher standard of proving negligence in a Camp Lejeune water contamination case. Instead, you just have to show that your medical condition was caused or was likely caused by your exposure to contaminated water. You must also show that the medical care you have received specifically treated the condition caused by the toxic water.

Victims and their families must file claims in federal court, which makes these cases a bit more complicated and intimidating than the average personal injury case. However, HawkLaw will work with you to help you with the entire process, so you are never alone in asserting this type of claim.

Compensation Available for Camp Lejeune Claims

You might be able to receive compensation to reimburse you for the following expenses or losses.

  • Medical expenses, including costs related to hospitalization
  • Prescription drug expenses
  • Surgeries
  • Lost earnings for being away from work
  • Pain and suffering (including both physical and emotional trauma)

If a loved one passes away because of their exposure, their family might also receive reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses, medical costs before their passing, loss of companionship, and other related costs.

How HawkLaw Can Help

Once you realize that a cancer diagnosis is more than just bad luck or vulnerable genes, you likely want to do something about it. HawkLaw can help you fight back in this extremely difficult situation.

Our law firm can assist you by gathering medical records and information to submit your claim. We will work with the VA to help with medical costs and help you file a federal lawsuit if it makes sense for your situation.

If you already submitted a claim and the VA denied it, we can also assist with the appeal process. These applications and appeals can be complicated and time-consuming, but HawkLaw can deal with the red tape so you can take care of your health.

Squash Those Costly Medical Bills for Your Prostate Cancer

Medical treatment is expensive, and it can add up quickly for prostate cancer treatment. However, you have legal options to address these mounting bills. To assert a claim, you need to act quickly. Contact us to learn more or to set up a free consultation* with a member of our legal team.

HawkLaw Fights
To Win
Contact us for a free consultation*

"*" indicates required fields

Completing this online form does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship. HawkLaw respects your privacy and requests that you do not share sensitive or confidential information in online forms. This form is not confidential.
disclosure agreement*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Written By John D. Hawkins

John David Hawkins is the Founder and Owner of HawkLaw. He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Focusing on litigation, Mr. Hawkins is experienced handling Worker’s Compensation, Personal Injury, Social Security Disability, Administrative Law, and Criminal Law matters.

Recent Blog Posts

Contact us for a Free Consultation*

*Disclaimer: Cases are principally handled out of Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston, and Columbia offices. Case "worth" is determined from the total settlement amount. The settlement amount shown are gross numbers before attorney’s fees and cost deductions. The % fees will be computed before deducting expenses and costs from the gross settlement. No fees or costs with no recovery. The information contained in this Website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. The specific results achieved for clients shared on this website do not imply that similar results may be achieved for other clients. Read Our Full Disclaimer. Read Our Privacy Policy