Camp Lejeune Cancer Study ‘Vindication’ for Victims,’ Advocates Say
As worries linger over tap water tainted by a chemical spill in West Virginia, and by oil and gas drilling from Pennsylvania to Texas, the health consequences of another water contamination — one that many say was the worst in U.S. history — are becoming increasingly clear.
U.S. Marines stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune during decades when toxic chemicals leached into on-base water wells have since suffered elevated risks of death from several types of cancer as well as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a government report released Wednesday.
“This study is vindication for what we’ve been arguing and fighting for over the past 10 years,” said Mike Partain, who was born and raised at Camp Lejeune and developed breast cancer at the age of 39.
“We’d been told year after year that there was no science to back up a link between exposure and disease. Now, we have two studies,” he said, referring also to a paper published in December by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which found a link between exposure to Camp Lejeune tap water and increased risks of birth defects and childhood cancers.
Partain and other advocates hope the accumulating evidence will attract greater government help for victims and their families, including those who may still fall ill in the decades ahead. An estimated 1 million Marines and family members at Camp Lejeune were exposed to drinking water poisoned by the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), as well as the fuel additive benzene, between 1953 and 1987.
“There is no speculation anymore,” said Partain. “The time for talk is over. Now, it’s time to act.”