Camp Lejeune Birth Defects Lawsuit | High Rate of Birth Defects
Much of the focus regarding toxic Camp Lejeune water has fallen on cases of cancer and Parkinson’s disease that victims have developed after prolonged periods of exposure. Overlooked in the years of attention paid to the issue is the effect that the toxic water had on children. Not only did children living on base consume the water and bathe in it, but also children who were conceived while their parents were on base suffered the effects. Studies have shown that children born to parents who lived at Camp Lejeune have a far higher rate of birth defects than they otherwise would have had.
A Government Study Found a Connection Between Camp Lejeune Contamination and Certain Birth Defects
Once the full effects of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune water began to become apparent, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry undertook an extensive survey to study potential birth defects in children. The agency asked parents whether they had children born with birth defects or who had developed cancer (There have also been cases of childhood cancer in people exposed to Camp Lejeune water, including a nine-year-old girl whose father helped lead the fight for medical benefits). The survey polled over 12,000 parents who were on the base from 1968-1983.
There Is a Connection Between Trichloroethylene and Camp Lejeune Water
The study revealed that women who were exposed to contaminated Camp Lejeune water had up to four times the risk of giving birth to a child with certain types of defects. One of the main culprits was the chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE). This chemical is used for cleaning metal parts. There were various chemicals that were used at Camp Lejeune and at an off-base dry cleaner. For years, base personnel buried chemicals in a dump that was located perilously close to groundwater Wells. There were studies that showed that these Wells could degrade over time, yet the Marine Corps still used water from these Wells without considering the possibility that it may be tainted. Large amounts of chemicals were buried in the dump, and they eventually seeped into the groundwater.
Service members and Their Families Were Exposed to Toxic Water for Almost 35 Years
Camp Lejeune service members and their families were exposed to this water over a 35-year period. The Navy did not even realize for the first 27 years that there may be a possibility that the water was contaminated. It was not until 1980 that a scientist expressed concern over tainted water test results. Even after that, it was another seven years until the Marine Corps completely shut off the water treatment plants that Drew upon this contaminated water. There are estimates that over a million people were exposed to Tainted water, developing illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
The ATSDR study only looked at children born in the time period after 1968. Medical records were not available beforehand. Thus, the problem could be even worse than what was revealed in the study. The study asked parents to self-report what their children encountered. roughly 76% of parents participated in the study, giving the agency a relatively complete picture over that period of time.
TCE Chemicals and Neural Tube Defects
In particular, the ATSDR found that there was one specific birth defect that was strongly associated with contaminated Camp Lejeune water. The agency found that there were much higher instances of neural tube defects (NTDs) among children born to mothers exposed to Camp Lejeune water. There are two primary types of NTDs:
- Spina bifida – This is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal column do not form properly. This defect can cause mild to severe physical and intellectual disabilities.
- Anencephaly – This is a severe birth defect that occurs when the baby is born with that part of their brain or skull. In most cases, a baby born with this defect will not survive for long. They may either be stillborn or have a life span of several days.
One other known effect of TCE exposure is an oral cleft. This defect is when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. The ATSDR study claimed that there was not a higher rate of oral cleft in babies born to mothers exposed to Camp Lejeune water. However, this finding is at odds with other research that analyzed other exposures to TCE that occurred in chemical spills elsewhere.
TCE Can Cause Other Birth Defects
TCE can have numerous harmful effects on the baby. The chemical can pass through the bloodstream and into the placenta. There have been several studies that have documented the dangers of TCE. One of the key risk periods is in the first two to eight weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s heart is developing. TCE exposure during this period can cause heart defects. Although TCE exposure does not ensure that the baby will be born with a heart defect, it greatly increases the chances.
In addition, women who were exposed to TCE during pregnancy have an elevated risk of delivering a baby well before term or with a low birth weight. Premature babies have the following health risks for the long term:
- cerebral palsy
- mental retardation
- visual and hearing impairments
- poor health and growth
Even babies born several weeks early have a higher risk for social and emotional disabilities over the course of their lifetime.
The Connection Between PCE Chemicals and Birth Defects
Although the ATSDR study found that there was a weaker association between exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) And birth defects, other studies have reached different conclusions. PCE Chemicals are often used to clean fabric by dry cleaners. There was one dry cleaner that was located off base that had a poor record of disposing of its chemicals. This dry cleaner was located up gradient from a water treatment plant on the base located only two miles away. The chemicals drifted downhill and seeped into the groundwater. Eventually, the dry cleaners site was designated for cleanup under the Superfund law.
Another study analyzed the effects of TCE and PCE on maternal and reproductive health. In this case, there was an industrial spill of volatile organic compounds in Endicott, New York, and over 4,000 women were exposed to TCE and PCE in the groundwater. In addition to reaching a similar conclusion about TCE as the ATSDR study, this analysis also found a connection between PCE exposure and certain birth defects. Specifically, the research showed that babies born to these mothers had higher rates of the neural tube defects described above and oral clefts.
Act Now to File a Claim for Compensation for Camp Lejeune Injuries
Children who were born with these birth defects can file a claim for compensation decades later now that Congress has passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The legislation created a new cause of action that has allowed victims to file lawsuits. Previously, they were barred by both a legal interpretation called the Feres Doctrine and a statute of repose in North Carolina law that prohibited lawsuits more than ten years after the last act of pollution.
Families can also file lawsuits if their child died from the birth defect or other birth-related conditions. Even though there is no presumed connection between the chemical exposure and the birth defects, families can put themselves in a position to receive financial compensation when they meet the relaxed standard of causation in the new law.
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim against the federal government for injuries caused by toxic Camp Lejeune water. According to the law, you have until August 2024. After that, you would lose the right to sue. Therefore, you should schedule a free consultation with a Camp Lejeune claims attorney today.