What happened at Camp Lejeune?

Between the years of 1953 and 1987, the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with four toxic chemicals. Innocent service members, their families, and civilians who lived on the base were exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis for more than three decades. They drank, bathed in, cooked with, and cleaned with highly contaminated water every day, never informed of the dangers.

While there is no exact data on how many people were exposed to the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune, it is estimated that more than one million people were exposed during the time the water was contaminated. Studies have traced many cancers and other conditions suffered by thousands of these individuals back to their time living at Camp Lejeune.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, passed in August of 2022, finally provides affected individuals and their families with a way to seek legal compensation for the harm they have experienced due to the contaminated water. . If you or someone you love were diagnosed with one of the below illnesses after spending at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between the years of 1953 and 1987, you may be eligible to seek compensation under the newly passed act.

Illnesses connected to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water include:

  • Adult Leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects (like Parkinson’s Disease and ALS)
  • Renal toxicity
  • Sclerodoma

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with any of the above illnesses and lived at Camp Lejeune between the years of 1953 and 1987, our team of Camp Lejeune lawyers can help you get started on your claim.

What chemicals were in the water at Camp Lejeune?

The four main chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune are trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene. Of these four chemicals, three are known carcinogens, and one is a potential carcinogen, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Trichloroethylene (TCE), the main contaminant in the water at Camp Lejeune, is a colorless liquid chemical primarily used as an extraction solvent for greases, oils, and waxes, along with being used as a solvent for cleaning, including dry cleaning. The chemical’s primary use is in industrial and military settings to clean metal parts. The inhalation, absorption through the skin, or consumption of this known carcinogen is seriously dangerous. The risk of exposure to this chemical is severe enough that the EPA once moved to ban the use of the substance, though the ban was not successful. The maximum level detected in drinking water was 215ppb in February 1985. The limit for safe drinking water is 5ppb. This means that for every billion drops of water, only 5 drops of PCE can be present for the water to be safe to drink. At Camp Lejeune at the time measured, there were 215 drops of TCE per billion drops of water.

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is primarily used as a dry cleaning chemical, although TCE and PCE are commonly used together in industrial areas. It is a potential carcinogen, meaning it is possible that this substance could cause cancer and other conditions, but the relationship has not been proven officially. PCE was onsite at Camp Lejeune due to improper disposal by a nearby laundromat not owned by the military base. It is also suspected that burial in the soil and underground storage tanks were used at Camp Lejeune as a means of disposal of this chemical, which could have leaked into the water. The Environment Protection Agency limits PCE in drinking water to 5ppb or less. This means that for every billion drops of water, only 5 drops of PCE can be present for the water to be safe to drink.

Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen used to make PVC pipes, cable coatings, and upholstery. At room temperature, it is a colorless gas with a mildly sweet odor. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that the amount of vinyl chloride in drinking water not exceed 2 ppb. This means that for every billion drops of water, only 2 drops of vinyl chloride can be present for the water to be safe to drink.


Benzene, another known carcinogen, is a very common chemical that is used in many products in the US, including plastics, detergents, and dyes. Many people are exposed to low levels of benzene in gasoline fumes, tobacco smoke, and various other products. It is found in crude oil and used as a fuel additive. It is a colorless liquid which has a sweet odor and dissolves in water slightly but evaporates into the air very quickly. Up to a million gallons of fuel were leaked into the soil at Camp Lejeune from underground benzene storage tanks. The federal government has established that the safe drinking water standard for benzene content is 5ppb. This means that for every billion drops of water, only 5 drops of vinyl chloride can be present for the water to be safe to drink. In 1985, the amount of benzene in the water was detected to be 2ppb. While this amount is below the safe drinking water standard, this was after the cleanup process had begun.

What caused the contamination of the water at Camp Lejeune?

The contamination was caused by improper disposal of chemicals from an off base dry cleaner, along with burial of toxic chemicals for disposal and storage of chemicals in leaky underground tanks.

What are the side effects of being exposed to the chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water?

TCEChemicals In Water At Camp Lejeune

One time exposure to TCE can cause minor symptoms such as headaches or dizziness. Repeated exposure to the chemical can significantly increase the risk of severe health conditions, even in low doses. Kidney cancer, liver cancer, and female infertility have been scientifically proven to be linked to exposure to TCE.


There is significantly less research on exposure to PCE, but some evidence shows it may increase the risk of developing cancer. Bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have been linked to PCE.

Vinyl Chloride

Short term exposure to vinyl chloride can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Long term exposure is far more dangerous, causing various cancers and other conditions.


Low level exposure to benzene could cause drowsiness, irregular heartbeat, headaches, and confusion. Long term exposure affects the bone marrow and red blood cells. Leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes have occurred in individuals exposed to benzene.

Contact our Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyers to Get Started On Your Claim

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with one of the above conditions after exposure to the chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water? If so, our team of Camp Lejeune lawyers is here to help you. Our firm will provide you with clear communication and respectful guidance throughout the entire legal process. We are not a volume firm.

We believe that every man, woman, and child who has been harmed by the poisonous water at Camp Lejeune deserves to have quality, attentive legal representation. It is truly our honor to be able to serve the military men and women who have served our country.

To begin the claims process, please contact our firm by filling out the form on this page or by calling us at (803) 790-2800. We look forward to speaking with you and seeing how we can help.

Kenneth Berger
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Columbia and Myrtle Beach car accident and personal injury lawyer dedicated to securing justice for clients.