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Camp Lejeune and Kidney Cancer

Marines, their loved ones, and others who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and have developed kidney cancer are filing lawsuits. The water at Camp Lejeune was polluted with toxic cancer-causing chemicals. All four contaminants detected at unsafe levels in the water at Camp Lejeune have been linked to kidney cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, when the last of several contaminated wells was closed.

Camp Lejeune Water and Kidney Cancer

The four chemicals associated with kidney cancer detected in the water at Camp Lejeune are:

  • Benzene: Benzene is produced by both natural and man-made processes. It is used in industries such as the chemical and oil industries, and studies have shown that workers in those industries have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE) or Tetrachloroethylene: PCE is an organic chemical and is toxic to humans, even in low concentrations. It is the primary solvent used in industrial and commercial dry cleaning, and tests showed extraordinarily high levels of PCE in Camp Lejeune’s water. PCE has been linked to kidney cancer. One source of the PCE in the water at Camp Lejeune is thought to be an off-base dry-cleaner named ABC One-Hour Cleaners.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE): TCE is a colorless volatile organic compound. It was widely used in industry as a cleaning agent and a degreaser, mainly for metal. At Camp Lejeune, TCE was used, among other things, to clean machinery. It is likely the TCE contamination in the water came from that cleaning use, from spills at industrial sites on-base, and from leaks from storage drums and underground tanks. Another source of the TCE contamination was an off-base dry-cleaner named ABC One-Hour Cleaners. That dry cleaner used some of the TCE sludge left over from its cleaning process to fill potholes, and also simply dumped it into the drains. Rainwater then carried off the discarded sludge, which eventually leached into the drinking water.
  • Vinyl chloride: Vinyl chloride is a man-made chemical used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic material.

Kidney cancer and kidney disease may have a stronger link to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune than any other disease or injury. TCE has been firmly established in the medical and epidemiological literature as capable of causing kidney cancer.

TCE causes mutations in the kidney’s important tumor suppressor gene, the von Hippel Lindau (VHL) gene. VHL mutations, a genetic marker of common kidney cancer, are abnormally common among TCE-exposed workers with kidney cancer.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that the levels of the TCE and the three other carcinogenic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune were well above the maximum contaminant levels allowed in the United States. The maximum levels for PCE, TCE, and vinyl chloride are 5 parts per billion (ppb), and the maximum is 2 ppb for benzene. The ATSDR reported that, “In the Hadnot Point system, the median monthly estimated average concentrations of TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride and benzene was 366 ppb, 15 ppb, 22 ppb and 5 ppb, respectively. In the Tarawa Terrace system, the median monthly estimated average concentrations of PCE, TCE and vinyl chloride were 85 ppb, 4 ppb and 6 ppb.”

Almost without exception, the levels of those carcinogenic chemicals found in Camp Lejeune water are far over the legal limit. In fact, they are generally multiples of the legal maximums—exceeding 70x the legal limit in the case of the PCE level in the Hadnot Point system. Compare the 5 ppb and 2 ppb legal limits to the average concentrations of 366 ppb, 15 ppb, 22 ppb, and 85 ppb.

Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is cancer that begins in the kidneys. Cancer is basically the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. These cells no longer have the regular checks and balances normal cells do; they grow and form tumors.

Although kidney cancer usually doesn’t have signs or symptoms in its early stages, signs and symptoms that may develop over time include:

  • Blood in your urine; it may appear pink, red, or cola colored
  • Pain that doesn’t go away in your back or side
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Fever

Camp Lejeune, the PACT Act, Contaminated Water, and Kidney Cancer

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows those affected by the toxic water and who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 consecutive days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to file a lawsuit in federal court to be compensated for their pain and suffering and for expenses related to their diagnosis and medical treatment.

Even veterans who have had claims related to their service at Camp Lejeune denied by the Veterans Administration may qualify for compensation under this new law.

But there are strict time limits for filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. People diagnosed before June 2020 must file their lawsuit by August 2024 (two years from the passage of the Act). And there are other requirements, too. So, if you served or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, contact us for a free consultation.


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