News & Events

Increased Cancer Risk at Camp Lejeune from Contaminated Water

Posted on February 07, 2024

By Nicole LaPlante

A newly released study found military and civilian personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1985 had higher risks for certain cancers.

Conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), sister agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the new study compared the cancer incidence rates of military and civilian personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to those stationed at Camp Pendleton, California.

Researchers found that, while both cohorts had similar total cancer rates, certain kinds of cancers were notably higher in the Camp Lejeune cohort. The risk of leukemia; esophagus, larynx, soft tissue, and thyroid cancers; and breast cancer were 20% higher for Camp Lejeune service members, with some cancers carrying a 40% higher risk.

The study was released amidst ongoing litigation over the North Carolina base’s contaminated water supply, and allegedly inadequate response by the military. Two of the wells serving the population of Camp Lejeune were contaminated with trichloroethylene and other industrial solvents from 1953 to 1985. Although army personnel and outside contractors submitted reports regarding the contamination as early as 1980 and 1982, the two contaminated wells were not shut down until 1984 and 1985 respectively.

David Savitz, a Brown University disease researcher who is consulting for plaintiffs’ attorneys, told the Associated Press the ATSDR study was “quite impressive.” He cautioned, however, that a concrete causative link between the contaminated drinking water and cancer, “is not something we’re going to be able to resolve definitively.” The exposures happened decades ago and, “were not well documented.”

Litigation against the government over the contaminated wells has increased steadily since the Biden administration signed the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act into effect in 2022. The Act included the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which allows veterans, service members, and civilians to file damages for harm from exposure to the contaminated water.

Any service member or civilian who was stationed or lived on Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1985 for at least 30 days is eligible for compensation under the CLJA. As of an October 2023 DOJ court filing, 117,000 CLJA claimants had filed suit for nearly $3.3 trillion in damages.