According to a study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in 2018, those who lived or worked at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 had a higher risk of developing cancer. However, as the new study remains under review by the ATSDR, victims of Camp Lejeune are making their concerns heard, as it now raises major questions on how and why this critical piece of information might have been withheld from the public for nearly six years.
Recap on What Happened at Camp Lejeune
From August 1953 to December 1987, service members and their families who were stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals via the water. For over 30 years, many service members who lived, worked, or spent time on the North Carolina base have claimed to have suffered from lifelong health complications due to exposure to the contaminated water. According to the reports, officials in the area were aware of the water contamination but never addressed the problem.
This contamination was caused due to the mismanaged runoff of multiple plants, storage tanks, and even a nearby dry cleaner. The affected water supply wells were not closed by the government until 1985, and until recently, disability claims for the consequences of this water contamination had been denied. Then, on August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act), which encompassed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (Justice Act).
Breaking Down the Significance of the Unreleased Camp Lejeune Report
The study is authored by Frank Bove, a senior epidemiologist at ATSDR and the Centers for Disease Control, who has over three decades of experience in the field and has roughly published 20 ATSDR studies. The significance of this study lies in its ability to establish a link between water contamination and cancer. As mentioned, many of those individuals who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 developed severe or life-threatening illnesses, which are believed to have been caused by exposure to the contaminated water.
The study used data from every U.S. cancer registry and compared the cancer rates at Camp Lejeune to those at Camp Pendleton, a California Marine base without similar water contamination issues. Kenneth Cantor, a former National Cancer Institute epidemiologist, had access to the report during the peer review process. Upon reviewing the study, he claims the information is "ground-breaking," as it increases the known number of cancers linked to the base's contaminated drinking water, as well as provides some of the most substantial evidence connecting the contaminated water to the cancers, and other illnesses Camp Lejeune victims have suffered.
As of now, the report, which was submitted back in April, has not yet been released by the ATSDR. Many believe the delay in the study's release aids the government in avoiding liability. However, ATSDR Director Aaron Bernstein disagrees, emphasizing the ongoing review process allows validity to settle with the study. Bernstein initiated a statistical review of the study in June, and it is now pending a second peer review. Once the author responds to the second peer review, the report will be reviewed by several offices within the ATSDR and, most likely, several offices within the CDC.
Bove, whose research started back in 2015, has expressed his frustration with the delays. "I've been frustrated by the process," Bove stated in October at a meeting of Camp Lejeune's Community Assistance Panel. However, despite the criticism of the delays, ATSDR Director Bernstein expressed that suggesting that the ATSDR is sitting on the report is a “mischaracterization” and that the ATSDR has an extensive process.
This isn't the first study published by ATSDR regarding the tainted water at Camp Lejeune. The first study was published in 1997; however, at the time, it was heavily criticized by Congress and former residents and workers at the base for dismissing health concerns about Camp Lejeune's tainted water. Eventually, the study was withdrawn from the ATSDR website.
What’s Next for Camp Lejeune Victims?
As we continue to wait for the finalization of the ATSDR review process, victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination can continue to fight and seek justice for their loved ones. As of January 2024, there have been over 147,000 administrative claims, 1,400 lawsuits have been filed concerning the water contamination of Camp Lejeune, and more are expected to come. At Morgan & Morgan, we understand the hardships that negligence can cause and how important it is for you and your loved ones to get the justice you deserve in order to move forward with your lives.
The time to fight back is now. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to exposure to the contaminated water from Camp Lejeune, we may be able to help you. For more information regarding your claim or the most recent lawsuits, speak with the experts at Morgan & Morgan today.