Our attorneys are currently seeking Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuits from victims in all 50 states. Anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune prior to 1988 and was subsequently diagnosed with colon cancer may have a potential Camp Lejuene colon cancer lawsuit.
On this page, our lawyers:
- provide a short overview of the water contamination lawsuits from Camp Lejeune
- examine the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and increased colon cancer rates
- explain who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune colon cancer case
- provide estimated settlement values for Camp Lejuene colon cancer lawsuits.
Toxic Water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
The USMC base at Camp Lejeune is a major military base and training facility located on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington, NC. Camp Lejeune has been in continuous use as a Marine Corps base since it first opened in 1942.
The base is very much like a small town, with barracks, family housing, schools, hospitals, etc. At any given time, Camp Lejeune accommodates a resident population of around 54,000. This population is comprised mainly of Marines. But it also includes spouses, children, and other family members. In addition to being a hometown for Marines and their families, Camp Lejeune has also been a workplace for civilian employees.
To support the resident and employee population on the base, Camp Lejeune has its own water supply system. The Camp Lejeune water supply pumps groundwater from massive wells. The water is delivered into a gravity distribution system.
For the first four decades of Camp Lejeune’s existence, the quality of the water supply on the base was never properly tested and fears the water could be contaminated were brushed aside. It was not until new regulations were passed in the 1980s that the Lejeune water was tested for the first time and it was discovered that the water was poisoned by extremely high levels of toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What Chemicals Were in the Water at Camp Lejeune?
There were many VOCs found in the Camp Lejeune water, but the two chemicals that were discovered at dangerously high levels were perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE and PCE are part of a family of chemicals known as chlorinated solvents or organic solvents.
PCE is a powerful degreasing agent and solvent that it is used in the dry-cleaning industry. Studies at Camp Lejeune determined that the PCE contamination in the water came from ABC Cleaners, a dry-cleaning business directly adjacent to the base. For years, employees at ABC Cleaners dumped used dry-cleaning chemicals into the ground out back.
TCE is another type of chemical solvent that is most frequently found in metal cleaners. TCE was mostly likely used at Camp Lejeune to clean and maintain military weapons, equipment and ordinance. It got into the groundwater through improper disposal and storage.
The Camp Lejeune water also contained two other toxic chemicals: benzene and vinyl chloride. Benzene is a petroleum byproduct that has widespread industrial use. In can be found in refined fuel, cleaners and various other products and compounds. Benzene is a notorious human carcinogen. Vinyl chloride is a chemical that is mostly used to manufacture plastic pipes. It is highly toxic and known to be associated with various types of cancer.
How Toxic was the Camp Lejeune Water?
The levels of the harmful chemicals TCE and PCE in the water supply at Camp Lejeune were dangerously high. The EPA and other health agencies have set the maximum safe level for PCE and TCE in drinking water at 5 parts per billion (ppb). TCE levels in the Camp Lejeune water were 1,4000 and PCE levels were 215, which is hundreds of times above the maximum safe limit.
When was the Camp Lejeune Water Contaminated?
The toxic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune were first discovered in 1982, but the Marine Corps essentially ignored the problem for several years. It was not until December 1987 that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was finally resolved. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the CDC, performed on-site testing and historical modeling of the water contamination at Lejeune. The ATSDR concluded that the Lejeune water contamination began in August 1953 and ended in December 1987.
Cancer of the colon and rectum (the combined areas are “colorectal”) is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. Like most cancers, the key is early detection. Most colorectal cancers starts in the cells that form the glands that make mucus inside of the colon and rectum. These are often adenomas (benign tumors) that can sometimes take over 10 years to make this transformation from benign to cancer. It is the third most common type of cancer in the United States.
There are, of course, risk factors for rectal and colon cancer besides contaminated water. Diets high in fiber – especially from fruits and vegetables – lower the risk of colon cancer. Most studies show an association between an increased risk of colon cancer and increased body mass. Physical activity has an inverse risk with colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco have been shown to increase the risk. But the pollution of drinking water has long been associated with a greater risk of rectal and colon cancer. In addition to TCE and PCE discussed below, nitrate in drinking water has also been linked to colon cancer.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
A variety of factors can increase the risk of developing colon cancer, including older age, African-American race, personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps, inherited syndromes, certain types of diets, obesity, smoking, alcohol, lack of physical activity, diabetes, and radiation therapy directed at the abdomen.
Frustratingly, colon cancer rarely causes any symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do occur, they vary according to the cancer’s size and location in the large intestine. Signs and symptoms may include a change in bowel habits lasting more than a few days, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, gas, or pain, a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely, unexplained weight loss, weakness or fatigue, and nausea or vomiting.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Colon cancer is often diagnosed through screenings such as fecal occult blood tests, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. If a suspicious area is found, a biopsy can be performed. Imaging tests can help determine if the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Surgery is often the first line of treatment, particularly for early-stage cancers. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these may be used for more advanced cancers.
Colon Cancer and Contaminated Water
There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to certain contaminants in drinking water may be linked to colon cancer and our lawyers expect more research to come with as the Camp Lejeune lawsuits proceed. Common contaminants in water include heavy metals like lead and arsenic, organic pollutants such as pesticides and disinfection byproducts, and microbial pathogens. Chronic exposure to these can disrupt the body’s normal cellular processes, leading to oxidative stress, inflammation, DNA damage, and ultimately cancer.
For instance, arsenic has been linked to several types of cancer, including colon cancer. Similarly, long-term exposure to trihalomethanes, a byproduct of water disinfection, has been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Evidence Linking Camp Lejeune Toxic Water to Colon Cancer
Studies by various public health agencies, including the ATSDR, have been done to evaluate the impact that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune had on base residents and employees who were exposed to it. Epidemiological studies have also been done on the connection between exposure to PCE and TCE and various types of cancers. Both of these sources support a connection between colon cancer and the TCE and PCE in the water at Camp Lejeune.
The ATSDR Study
The ATSDR obtained health history and medical information from thousands of former residents and employees from Camp Lejeune during the relevant time frame. This information was then compared to similar medical information from a control group of residents and employees from Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in California with water that was not contaminated.
Based on this analysis, the ATSDR Study determined that the Camp Lejeune population displayed higher rates of colon and rectal cancer compared to the control group from Camp Pendleton. More significantly, the ATSDR data indicated that there was a correlation between the extent of exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and the rate of colon cancer.
Numerous scientific and clinical studies have been done on the connection between cancer and occupational exposure to TCE and PCE. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2000 entitled Trichloroethylene and cancer: epidemiologic evidence, reviewed over 80 published papers on the cancer epidemiology of people exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE). This study noted evidence of an association between TCE exposure and colon cancer (among many other cancers).
A similar finding was reached about the connection between colon cancer and TCE exposure in a case-controlled study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2001. The study found that industrial workers in the Montreal area who had occupational exposure to TCE displayed elevated rates of colon cancer. Similar evidence has been published on the association between PCE and colon cancer.
Who is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Colon Cancer Lawsuit?
Under a new federal law called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), any individual (including veterans) who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 1 month between 1953 and 1987 is now eligible to bring a civil lawsuit for harm caused by the toxic water at Lejeune.
Anyone who is able to prove that they lived or worked at Lejeune during this time and prove that they were subsequently diagnosed with colon cancer will be able to bring a case.
Projected Settlement Amounts for Camp Lejeune Colon Cancer Cases
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving colon cancer could have average settlement amounts between $75,000 and $225,000. These projected settlement amounts could be lowered compared to other types of cancer for two reasons.
First, colon cancer is more treatable and has a higher survival rate compared to other types of cancer. Second, although there is evidence linking colon cancer to the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune, the evidence is not as strong as it is for other cancer types. Importantly, it is not one of the “presumptive” cancers where causality has been assumed. Despite the lower value estimate, we could still see some uniquely compelling Camp Lejeune colon cancer cases go to trial and get multi-million dollar verdicts.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Breast Cancer Lawsuit
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and you were later diagnosed with colon cancer from toxic water, call us today at 800-553-8082 to see if you have a case. You can also get a free, no-obligation case review online.