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What Are the Symptoms of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

September 6, 2022

From 1953 to 1987, the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune (as well as nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River) in North Carolina was thoroughly contaminated with toxic substances, including trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride. These substances are known risk factors for an enormous range of cancers, diseases, and other adverse health effects for those who are exposed—including young and unborn children.

Then and in the years that have followed, countless numbers of military service members and their loved ones, military contractors, and others who lived or worked on base have contracted serious health conditions as a result of their exposure. Thousands have already died, including children. And if you spent time on base during that 1953-1987 window, you may have been affected, too.

In the decades since the discovery of these toxic chemicals in the drinking water, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune struggled to get the VA disability benefits they deserved—and those who didn’t have access to VA benefits, including family members, had no legal recourse at all.

However, with the recent passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, that’s changing. Veterans, family members, and anyone who lived or worked on base for at least 30 days will now be able to file suit against the government and recover the compensation they deserve—provided they have a condition with a known link to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the known symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination, and what you should do if you or someone you love developed any of these conditions during your time there.

RELATED POST: Camp Lejeune Justice Act: A Veteran’s Guide

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Conditions and Symptoms Linked with Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

The list of known conditions and health problems linked to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune includes the following:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Bone marrow conditions
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Furthermore, pregnant women exposed to the water supply at Camp Lejeune were much more likely to experience miscarriage or stillbirth, and the children who were born had a much higher risk of birth defects.

Because the list of linked conditions is so long, there is a huge variety of associated symptoms—far too many to list here. However, it’s wise to keep an eye out for any potential warning signs. We especially recommend that you seek medical attention immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden, unexplained weight fluctuations
  • Swelling
  • Coughing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Neuropathy (or other neurological problems)
  • Abdominal pain

Were You or a Loved One Exposed to Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune?

Contact Our Local, Veteran-Owned Law Firm Today

Am I Eligible for Compensation?

One of the most important provisions of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is that it removes the federal government’s right to claim immunity against a personal injury claim. Further, you do not have to prove negligence, as the government has already admitted its responsibility.

You need to prove three main things:

  • You lived or worked at Camp Lejeune (or MCAS New River) for at least 30 days, cumulatively, between August 1953 and December 1987.
  • You were diagnosed with a form of cancer or other health problem with a known link to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
  • Your exposure to the harmful chemicals at Camp Lejeune is the likely cause of your health problems.

If all the above are true, you are eligible to file a lawsuit against the government in the district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. As with other types of personal injury lawsuits, you can sue for damages including medical treatment costs, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional anguish.

Again, although you do not have to prove negligence, the burden of proof will still be on you to establish the connection between your symptoms and your time at Camp Lejeune. An experienced attorney can help you gather the necessary medical evidence and prepare your case to give you the best chance at getting the full financial recovery you’re entitled to.

What About VA Disability Benefits and VA Health Care?

In addition to filing a personal injury lawsuit, veterans (and their spouses and dependents) may be eligible for certain benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the past, getting approved for VA benefits for Camp Lejeune-related illnesses was extremely difficult. But in recent years, as the injustices committed at Camp Lejeune have come increasingly to light, new laws have been passed to make it easier for veterans and families to receive badly needed disability and health care benefits.

In 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs established a presumptive service connection for the below eight conditions. This means if you served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987, and you have one of these conditions, you do not have to prove a direct service connection on your own—the VA will simply accept that they are service-related.

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

Furthermore, since the 2012 passage of the Camp Lejeune Families Act, veterans and family members who spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune within the same time window are also eligible to receive fully paid health care expenses for any of the following expanded list of conditions:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Female infertility
  • Scleroderma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects

Will My VA Benefits Affect My Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Even if you are currently receiving VA health care or VA disability benefits, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. In fact, it’s recommended that you do, as this is the only way to receive compensation for damages that the VA doesn’t cover, including non-economic damages.

However, you cannot receive “double compensation” for overlapping claims. For example, if you’re already receiving free VA health care for a kidney cancer diagnosis, you cannot claim it as part of your Camp Lejeune Justice Act lawsuit.

What If My Health Condition Isn’t Listed Above?

Even though the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has been assessing health risks related to Camp Lejeune drinking water for more than 30 years—and the toxic nature of trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride have been apparent far longer than that—the truth is that there’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term health effects. While the list of conditions we already know about is long, it’s likely that more will be added in the coming years.

Even if you aren’t sure whether your condition is covered, you should always get any concerning symptoms checked out by a qualified physician. And if you do develop any form of cancer or chronic health problem, and you have any reason to suspect there may be a link with your time at Camp Lejeune, it’s always a smart idea to contact an experienced attorney who is familiar with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act and related cases and offers free legal consultations. While you may or may not have a case today, that may still change in the future.

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a person discussing symptoms with a professional after experiencing health issues while working at Camp Lejeune

I Believe I Was Affected by Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune. What Should I Do Next?

Again, if you or a family member lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987, and have experienced any serious health effects then or since, you should contact an experienced attorney for legal advice.

At your initial consultation, your attorney will talk with you about your residence or service at Camp Lejeune, any concerning health issues you or your loved one have experienced, and help you determine whether you have a case (whether that means a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, a VA disability claim, VA health care, or all of the above) and what your next steps should be.

If you do have a case, your attorney can then help you prepare it for trial, including:

  • Proving the link to Camp Lejeune. Remember, if you file a personal injury lawsuit the burden of proof is still on you to show that exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune was the likely cause of your illness. Your attorney can review your medical records, gather the necessary documents, and perform any other necessary investigation to show that the government’s negligence was the cause of your health problems.
  • Calculating fair compensation for your damages. Estimating the “true” value of any personal injury case is complicated. Future expenses are difficult to predict, and it’s impossible to truly put a price tag on things like emotional anguish or loss of a loved one. As a result, many people who represent themselves end up asking and settling for far less than what they truly deserve. An experienced attorney will know how to calculate fair financial compensation—and will fight hard to ensure that you get it.

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a man calling an attorney for legal advice about water contamination at Camp Lejeune

Count on the Colonel: Fighting for the Legal Rights of Veterans and Families

As a retired officer and 28-year veteran of the armed forces, LTC Karl Truman is deeply committed to serving veterans and their family members, and acutely aware of the sacrifices they make every day to serve their neighbors, community, and country.

If you have any questions or concerns whatsoever about the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, or whether you may be eligible to file a claim, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team has extensive experience handling both personal injury and VA disability claims, and we are fully invested in helping Camp Lejeune families get the justice, compensation, and closure they deserve.

To get started, just give us a call or complete the contact form on this page.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.