If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune at any point before 1988 and you were subsequently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, you may be able to bring a Camp Lejeune lawsuit and get financial compensation for your losses.
On this page, our Camp Lejeune lawyers provide the following information:
- A summary of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune
- A look at the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and thyroid cancer
- An explanation of who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune case for thyroid cancer
- Provide estimated settlement values for Camp Lejeune thyroid cancer lawsuits with a new February 2024 update
February 2024 Update
There will be a new focus on thyroid cancer now that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) new study has been released. The incidence of thyroid cancer at Camp Lejeune was much higher than initially anticipated.
Pendleton v. Lejeune
The study compared the health of people at two military bases: Camp Lejeune, where the drinking water was contaminated with harmful chemicals, and Camp Pendleton, where the water was clean. The researchers wanted to see if there was a difference in the number of cancer cases between the two places.
Higher Rate of Thyroid Cancer
What they found was particularly concerning for thyroid cancer. People who were at Camp Lejeune had a 22% higher chance of getting thyroid cancer compared to those at Camp Pendleton. In numbers, this means if we consider the risk of thyroid cancer as “normal” at Camp Pendleton, it was significantly higher at Camp Lejeune.
What the Study Means
The new ATSDR study’s statistics show that for every 100,000 people, those at Camp Lejeune had a higher rate of developing thyroid cancer because of the contaminated water they were exposed to. This finding is important because it suggests that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune likely contributed to the increased risk of thyroid cancer among those who lived or worked there during the period studied.
The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Tragedy
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base and training compound near Wilmington, North Carolina. The Marine Corps established Camp Lejeune in the early 1940s in preparation for the U.S.’s entry into WWII, and the base has been a significant point of operations for the Marines ever since.
Like most big military bases, Camp Lejeune quickly evolved into a small town. The base has family housing, bachelor housing, barracks, schools, and a hospital, and the on-base population soon exceeded 50,000. The Marine Corps built and operated its water supply system at Camp Lejeune to serve these residents.
For over three decades (from the 1950s to the 1980s), toxic chemicals escaped from fuel tanks, industrial facilities, and a dry cleaning business on and around Camp Lejeune and seeped into the groundwater below. By drinking, cooking with, bathing in, and otherwise coming into contact with that water, hundreds of thousands of men and women living or working on base were exposed to these chemicals, significantly increasing their risk for cancer.
For years, the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was swept under the rug. Finally, in 2008, the Marine Corps admitted the full extent of the contamination when Congress required them to notify former residents. For years afterward, however, victims of the Camp Lejeune contamination were legally blocked from bringing lawsuits and getting any compensation.
In August 2022, Congress corrected this problem by passing a new law called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (“CLJA”). The CLJA gives former residents and employees of Camp Lejeune (and their surviving family members) the right to bring civil lawsuits against the government for injuries related to the contaminated water.
The Chemicals in the Camp Lejeune Water
Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or “PCE”), trichloroethylene (“TCE”), dichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene were the primary chemicals contaminating the water at Camp Lejeune. All of these chemicals are toxic to the human body and have been linked to cancer.
The levels of toxic chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water system were unbelievably high. According to the EPA, the maximum safe level for PCE, TCE, and benzene in drinking water is five parts per billion (ppb), and the maximum level for vinyl chloride is two ppb.
The levels of these chemicals in the Lejeune water were several thousand times above these maximum safe limits. In 1985, the TCE level in the water supply in the Berkeley Manor Elementary School area of Camp Lejeune was as high as 1148 ppb, and the dichloroethylene level was 406 ppb. One particularly contaminated supply well on base had 18,900 ppb of TCE, 400 ppb of PCE, 8,070 ppb of trichloroethylene, and 655 ppb of vinyl chloride.
Water Contamination Period at Camp Lejeune: 1953 – 1987
Field studies and historical reconstruction modeling performed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at Camp Lejeune eventually determined that TCE and PCE levels above their current MCLs were present in the distribution systems since the 1950s. The most highly contaminated supply wells serving these systems were shut down by February 1985. It has now been determined that the contamination of the Camp Lejeune water began in August 1953 and ended in December 1987.
Thyroid cancer, characterized by the growth of malignant cells in the thyroid gland, is witnessing an uptick in cases globally. This type of cancer, which affects the gland responsible for vital metabolic functions, is becoming a significant health concern due to its increasing prevalence. No one knew why thyroid cancer was rising. With the new ATSDR study in February 2024, as discussed above, we may know why – toxic chemicals.
Types and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
There are four primary types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Papillary and follicular cancers, which are less aggressive, constitute the majority of cases. Symptoms, often subtle, can include neck lumps, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and voice changes.
Data shows a marked increase in thyroid cancer diagnoses over recent years. This rise is partially attributed to improved detection technologies, such as advanced imaging techniques. However, the impact of these awful chemicals on our environment and lifestyle factors cannot be discounted.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis typically involves physical exams, blood tests, imaging, and biopsies. Treatment varies by cancer type and stage, with options including surgery, radioactive iodine therapy, hormone therapy, and, in some cases, chemotherapy or radiation. Early-stage thyroid cancer has a high survival rate, underscoring the importance of early detection.
Evidence Linking Camp Lejeune Water Contamination to Thyroid Cancer
After the extent of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was disclosed, several public health agencies performed studies to assess the impact that exposure to the toxic water had on the health of those exposed to it. The ATSDR conducted a series of health studies that compared the health history of former Camp Lejeune residents and employees to a control group from another Marine Corps base (Camp Pendleton). The ATSDR also looked at findings from independent studies involving occupational exposure to the chemicals in the Lejeune water.
Based on these efforts, the ATSDR published reports identifying a long list of cancers and other types of disease that can be linked to the Camp Lejeune water based on varying levels of evidence. The Veteran’s Administration later issued a similar list based on clinical guidance from a special committee of experts that was formed to review the available evidence.
Before February 2024, the ATSDR did not name thyroid cancer as one of the diseases for which it found evidence to support a causal relationship with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. This does NOT mean that the thyroid cancer is not linked to Camp Lejeune, and it does not mean that former Lejeune residents who have thyroid cancer cannot bring claims under the CLJA. Because we now know, based on the new study we talk about above and below, that there is a strong link between thyroid cancer and the chemicals at Camp Lejeune.
There is independent epidemiological evidence indicating that occupational exposure to the types of chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune can cause thyroid cancer. In 2017, a Marine Corps veteran who served at Camp Lejeune sought VA benefits for her thyroid cancer because it was related to the toxic water at Lejeune. In support of her benefit claim, the Veteran presented an opinion from an expert medical witness who concluded that the Veteran’s thyroid cancer was caused by her exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. The expert cited several epidemiological studies in support of this conclusion. Ultimately, however, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals found that the evidence fell just short of the standard of proof and denied the claim for benefits related to the Veteran’s thyroid cancer. See Board of VA Appeals # 13-21 029 (2017).
Our lawyers initially viewed thyroid cancer as a “Tier 3” Camp Lejeune injury. Not anymore. The new CDC study in February 2024 makes clear that thyroid cancer should be a Tier 1 injury. Thyroid cancer lawsuits at Lejeune will get new attention now after this study.
Estimated Settlement Amounts for Camp Lejeune Thyroid Cancer Lawsuits
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving thyroid cancer could have an average settlement payout of around $160,000 to $400,000.
This settlement amount projection was much lower before the February 2024 ATSDR. This is an increase from our settlement value estimate for thyroid cancer suits because we thought it was a Tier 3 Camp Lejeune injury. It is not.
Contact Us About Camp Lejeune Thyroid Cancer Cases
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and you (or a deceased relative) were later diagnosed with thyroid 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.