A Journal of the American Medical Association study published in May shows that U.S. service members who were stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985 are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease than those who were posted elsewhere. 

This is the latest discovery connected to water contamination at the North Carolina base between the 1950s and the 1980s. The contamination has also been linked to many other health issues, including heart problems and birth defects.

JAMA Research Shows Heightened Risk for Veterans

The study compared more than 300,000 veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton in California. Researchers studied veterans’ health records between the two groups from Jan. 1, 1997, through Feb. 17, 2021, and found that 430 of them had developed Parkinson’s disease. They also found that veterans who weren’t diagnosed with Parkinson’s displayed what could be deemed as “prodromal features,” or early signs, of the disorder.

“Remarkably, among veterans without PD, residence at Camp Lejeune was associated with a higher risk of several clinical diagnoses that are well-established prodromal features of PD,” JAMA researchers wrote in the study. 

Results of the study found that the risk of Parkinson’s disease was 70% higher for those at Camp Lejeune compared to Camp Pendleton. The data in the report came from the Veterans Health Administration and Medicare records.

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Diagnosed with cancer or another serious disease after exposure to water at Camp Lejeune?
You may be eligible for compensation.

Toxic Chemicals at Marine Corps Base

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chemicals from an off-site dry cleaning facility near Camp Lejeune, underground storage tanks and nearby industrial spills are all to blame for the contamination of the water there. Officials were unaware of the problem until 1982, about 30 years after it started. 

A chemical known as trichloroethylene, or TCE, is one of many chemicals that tainted the drinking water. TCE is a colorless compound used as a cleaning agent and degreaser. The chemical was used for 100 years until suspicions that it may be harmful arose in the 1960s. Exposure to TCE can raise the risk of cancer, affect the liver and cause damage to the nervous system and brain, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Records show several other toxic chemicals, like perchloroethylene and benzene, were also found in the drinking water. Between 1975 and 1985, water contamination levels at Camp Lejeune were 70 times higher than the EPA’s maximum contaminant level. 

Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022

In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law. The bill gives veterans and their families who were harmed by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune the ability to take legal action against the federal government. 

The law ensures that the U.S. government is not immune from litigation concerning what happened at Camp Lejeune. The legislation overrides a long-standing North Carolina law that blocked any claims filed after a decade. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began processing lawsuits in connection to Camp Lejeune in 2010. By 2017, the claims expanded to include veterans’ family members.

In 2017, the government agreed to provide a total of $2 billion in disability benefits for veterans with health problems caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The VA is encouraging any veteran who served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, to apply for benefits. The CDC estimates nearly 900,000 veterans, family members and nearby civilians may have been exposed to contaminated water.