Our mass tort attorneys are currently representing victims who are considering a Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuit. Veterans or civilians who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1988 and were subsequently diagnosed with colorectal cancer may have a potential Camp Lejuene colorectal cancer lawsuit.
On this page, our lawyers:
- provide a short overview of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune
- examine the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and increased colorectal cancer rates
- explain who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune colorectal cancer case
- provide estimated settlement values for Camp Lejuene colorectal cancer lawsuits.
Toxic Water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Founded in preparation for WWII, the USMC base at Camp Lejeune is major military base and training facility located on the North Carolina coast near the town of Jacksonville, NC. The base rapidly evolved into a small town, with barracks, family housing, schools, hospitals, etc. The facilities at Camp Lejeune accommodate an on-base resident population of around 54,000 composed of marines, spouses, children and other family members. Civilian employees also work on base.
Camp Lejeune has its own water supply system to supply potable water to the base residents and employees. The Camp Lejeune water supply pumps groundwater from massive wells which is then sent into a gravity distribution system.
For the first 40 years of Camp Lejeune’s existence, the quality of the water on the base was never tested. New regulations enacted in the 1980s, however, prompted the Marines Corps to test the water quality at Camp Lejeune for the first time. This testing revealed that the water was basically poisoned by extremely high levels of toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
So the contaminated water that was used for drinking, cooking, and bathing exposed hundreds of thousands of people over several decades. This exposure has been linked to various health problems. The one that stands out the most? Cancer.
What Chemicals Were in the Water at Camp Lejeune?
The two primary VOCs found in the Camp Lejeune water at 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. Two other toxic chemicals, benzene and vinyl chloride, were also in the Camp Lejeune water. The one thing that all of these chemicals have in common is that they are well known to be very toxic to the human body and linked to cancer.
How Bad 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 VOCs like TCE and PCE in drinking water at 5 parts per billion (ppb). One particularly contaminated supply well on Camp Lejeune had 18,900 ppb of TCE, 400 ppb of PCE, 8,070 ppb of dichloroethylene and 655 ppb of vinyl chloride.
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), performed on site testing and historical modeling of the water contamination at Lejeune. The ATSDR final conclusion what that the Lejeune water contamination began in August 1953 and ended in December 1987.
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. The colon and rectum are part of the digestive system and together make up the large intestine. Colorectal cancer can develop slowly over time and often starts as a polyp, a small growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known. But we do know what increases the risk. Some of these risk factors include age, family history, a history of inflammatory bowel disease, a diet high in red and processed meats, physical inactivity, smoking, obesity… and exposure to toxic water.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and weakness. However, in some cases, colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms until it has progressed to a more advanced stage.
Screening for colorectal cancer is important, as early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment. Common screening tests include a fecal occult blood test, colonoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy.
Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on the stage of the disease and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.
While colorectal cancer is a serious disease, advances in screening and treatment have improved the outlook for people diagnosed with the disease. It is important to be aware of the risk factors, recognize the symptoms, and seek medical attention if any concerns arise.
Evidence Linking Camp Lejeune Toxic Water to Colorectal and Intestinal Cancer
Studies by various public health agencies, including a series of health studies by 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 occupational exposure to PCE and TCE and various types of cancers.
Based on these efforts, a list of over a dozen cancers and other diseases have been named as being presumptively or potentially linked to the Camp Lejeune water based on varying levels of evidence. This list of Camp Lejeune diseases was developed by the ATSDR based on the health studies and the Veteran’s Administration based on clinical guidance from a special committee of experts that was formed to review the available evidence.
Colorectal cancer was not included on the list of diseases for which are considered presumptively or possibly associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
This does NOT mean that the colorectal cancer is not linked to Camp Lejeune and it definitely does not mean that former Lejeune residents who have colorectal cancer cannot bring claims under the CLJA. In fact, even the ATSDR found the risk of developing colorectal cancer was increased by as much as 15% in people who were exposed to contaminated water at the base.
But there is independent epidemiological evidence indicating that occupational exposure to the types of chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune can cause colorectal cancer. The relevant studies include one cohort study of colorectal-cancer mortality in dry cleaners (Ruder et al. 2001) and two case-control studies—one defining exposure on the basis of work as a dry cleaner (Fredriksson et al. 1989) and the other on the basis of exposure to contaminated drinking water on Cape Cod (Paulu et al. 1999). The results showed evidence of increased risk of colorectal cancer in those exposed to TCE, PCE and other similar chemicals. Although this evidence is viewed as somewhat inconclusive, the CLJA adopts a lowered standard of proof for causation.
Our attorneys view colorectal cancer as a “Tier 3” Camp Lejeune disease. Tier 1 diseases are those which both the VA and ATSDR have previously identified as being presumptively connected to Camp Lejeune. These are the disease with the strongest causation evidence (e.g., kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bladder cancer, etc.) Tier 2 injuries are those that are not in the “presumptive” category, but which have been linked to TCE or PCE exposure in at least one study.
Tier 3 injuries (like colorectal cancer) include cancer types that have not been specifically linked to Camp Lejeune by any study, but there is still some evidence to make a valid causation argument. Plaintiffs in Camp Lejeune cases involving Tier 3 injuries will face an uphill battle, but there is still a real possibility that they will end up getting compensation.
Estimated Settlement Value of Camp Lejeune Colorectal Cancer Cases
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving thyroid cancer could have an average settlement value of around $60,000 to $205,000. The primary reason that our settlement value estimate for thyroid cancer cases is this low is because it is a Tier 3 Camp Lejeune injury. The lack of clear causation evidence linking colorectal cancer to Camp Lejeune makes these cases weaker and drives down their settlement amounts. That is the honest truth. Our team is reviewing these cases and we have many of them. But they are going to be more of a fight than, say, a Parkinson’s disease lawsuit.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Colorectal Cancer Cases
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and you (or a deceased relative) were later diagnosed with colorectal cancer, 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.