Our law firm handles heart defect Camp Lejeune lawsuits in all 50 states. We provide the latest update on these cases, including details of the September 2023 settlement offer.
For 34 years, marines, their families, and civilian employees at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to toxic chemicals in the drinking water. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to this contaminated water increases heart defect rates. Thanks to a new federal law, victims with heart defects can now bring a Camp Lejeune lawsuit and get well-deserved compensation.
On this page, our lawyers:
- examine the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and heart defects (cardiac defects)
- explain who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune heart defect lawsuit
- provide estimated settlement values for Camp Lejeune heart defect lawsuits.
Recent Camp Lejeune Settlement Offer Does Not Apply to Cardiac Defect Claims
The Camp Lejeune settlement offer on September 6, 2023 does not apply to cardiac defect cases. Why? The ATSDR confirms a link between this category of illnesses and the contaminated water. So what is the problem? The government says that cardiac birth defects encompass a variety of complex illnesses that cannot be easily assessed without thorough and detailed investigations due to their diversity.
This is frustrating. But the DOJ is actually right about this. And most of these cases should not opt into the settlement anyway because the offers are too low. Our lawyers believe that most of these claims will have a very high settlement value.
The Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
Founded in preparation for WWII, USMC base Camp Lejeune is located on the North Carolina coast near 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 the base.
Camp Lejeune has its water supply system to supply potable water to the base residents and employees. In the 1980s, the water quality at Camp Lejeune was tested for the first time. This testing revealed that the water was poisoned by extremely high levels of toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
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. All these chemicals have in common that they are well known to be very toxic to the human body and linked to cancer.
The levels of the harmful chemicals TCE and PCE in the water supply at Camp Lejeune were dangerously high. Testing found that the levels of carcinogenic chemicals in the Lejeune water were several thousand times above the maximum safe limit for drinking water.
When was the Camp Lejeune Water Contaminated?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed on-site testing and historical modeling of the water contamination at Lejeune. The ATSDR’s final conclusion what that the Lejeune water contamination began in August 1953 and ended in December 1987.
Heart Defects and Contaminated Water
Congenital heart defects are internal problems caused by abnormal formation of the heart, blood vessels, or other parts of the cardiovascular system. There are 18 different types of congenital heart defects.
Heart defects are among the most common birth defects, affecting nearly 1 in 100 newborns. These conditions can lead to various health problems, ranging from mild to severe, including heart failure, growth and developmental delays, and even early death. While many factors contribute to the development of heart defects, such as genetics and maternal health conditions, emerging research indicates that environmental factors, like contaminated water, may also play a significant role.
Water is a vital resource for all life, including human beings. The quality of the water we consume, of course, matters. Contaminated water is a significant public health concern, not just at Lejeune but in areas where industrial activities or inadequate waste management systems lead to harmful substances in water sources. These contaminants include heavy metals like lead and mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and various industrial chemicals.
Studies have shown a possible link between prenatal exposure to specific water contaminants and the risk of congenital heart defects. For example, research published in 2022 found an association between maternal exposure to certain types of air and water pollutants and an increased risk of CHDs in their offspring. Another study published in 2019 reported a similar finding, noting that exposure to high nitrate levels in drinking water was associated with various heart defects.
Lead, a heavy metal often found in contaminated water, particularly in areas with older plumbing systems, is another cause for concern. Lead exposure has been associated with numerous health problems, including developmental and neurological issues. Evidence suggests that prenatal exposure to lead can increase the risk of heart defects.
Contamination of drinking water with pesticides is another issue. A study found that maternal exposure to certain types of pesticides was associated with an increased risk of several types of CHDs. The researchers speculated that these pesticides might disrupt the normal development of the fetal heart, leading to defects.
One notable example of water contamination leading to health issues, including heart defects, is the infamous case of Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the city switched its water source to the Flint River without properly treating the water to control corrosion. This decision resulted in lead from aging pipes leaching into the city’s water supply. The contaminated water was linked to various health problems for the city’s residents, including increased fetal death and decreased fertility rates.
The heart defects observed in areas with contaminated water with the chemical at Lejeune vary depending on the specific contaminant and the population being studied.
Did the Camp Lejeune Water Cause Heart Defects?
Studies by various public health agencies, including a series of health studies by the ATSDR, have been done to evaluate the impact of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination on-base residents and employees exposed to it.
Evidence shows that exposure to certain chemicals in contaminated water may increase the risk of congenital heart defects. One chemical of particular concern is TCE – which was everywhere at Lejeune – a colorless liquid used as a solvent and degreaser in many industrial and manufacturing processes.
Studies have shown that exposure to TCE during pregnancy may increase babies’ risk of congenital heart defects. For example, a study of pregnant women who lived in a community where TCE had contaminated the water supply found that those exposed to higher chemical levels were more likely to have a child with a congenital heart defect.
Other chemicals linked to an increased risk of congenital heart defects include perchloroethylene (PCE), commonly used in dry cleaning, and benzene, which is used in the production of plastics, resins, and synthetic fibers.
Based on these efforts, a list of health conditions have been named as presumptively or potentially linked to the Camp Lejeune water based on varying levels of evidence.
The health conditions on this list are often divided into two categories or tiers based on the strength of scientific evidence connecting the condition to the Camp Lejeune water.
Diseases in Tier I have the strongest evidence of causation and have been named as “presumptively” connected to Camp Lejeune by the VA or ATSDR. Tier II diseases are those that have not been named as presumptively linked to Camp Lejeune because the evidence of causation is not as strong.
Heart defects or cardiac defects are considered a Tier II Camp Lejeune health condition. Heart defects are in Tier II because this is not one of the health conditions named as “presumptively” linked to the water at Camp Lejeune.
However, independent epidemiological evidence shows that occupational exposure to TCE (one of the chemicals that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune) may be associated with heart defects. This includes a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which showed a “significant association” between exposure to TCE in drinking water and congenital heart disease and other cardiac defects.
VA Appeal Board Has Previously Recognized Connection Between Heart Defects and Camp Lejeune Water
In 2014, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals heard a benefits claim. The veteran alleged that his coronary artery disease was connected to his service at Camp Lejeune and exposure to the contaminated water at the base (BVA Docket # 11-32 299). The BVA examined the available evidence and concluded that “the evidence of record is in equipoise” and, therefore, it was “at least as likely as not” that the coronary artery disease was related to the Camp Lejeune water.
This decision from the Appeal Board is significant because it involved an application of the same “equipoise” causation standard adopted for establishing causation in claims brought under the CLJA. This decision is, therefore a good indication of how heart defect cases filed under the CLJA will likely be resolved.
Who is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Lawsuit?
Under a new federal law called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), any individual who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for at least one month between 1953 and 1987 had the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the government for harm caused by the toxic water at Lejeune. To be eligible to file a CLJA claim, you must be able to show that you meet this residence or employment eligibility criteria and prove that you were subsequently diagnosed with a heart defect.
Congenital heart defects are caused by in utero exposure to the chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water. Therefore, eligible claimants must show that their mother lived at Camp Lejeune or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days when she was pregnant.
Settlement Payouts for a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Lawsuit
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving heart defects could have an average settlement payout of around $250,000 and $500,000. This is on the middle of the Camp Lejeune settlement amount our lawyers have projected.
Heart defects do not have the same epidemiological evidence as some of the other diseases from contaminated water. Also, heart defects are not necessarily fatal, like some cancers linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. But as this litigation has progress in 2023, our lawyers believe Camp Lejeune heart defect lawsuits may have an even higher value than we originally anticipated.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Case
If you were born with a congenital heart defect that the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may have caused, contact our office today to see if you may be eligible to file a claim. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.