How Water Contamination Causes Cancer

The Camp Lejeune water contamination is one of the most extreme examples of water pollution in American history. When people ingest a large amount of toxic chemicals on a daily basis, it dramatically raises the risk of diseases such as cancer.

One report looked at the 22 contaminants found in the nearly 50,000 municipal water systems across the country. This report claimed that approximately 100,000 Americans could die of cancer from polluted water. These risks are found even in water systems that meet legal requirements for clean water. It goes without saying that water such as the type that was found at Camp  Lejeune for nearly 35 years would place people who drank it in grave risk.

contaminated water causes cancer
Toxic water causes cancer and death.

 

Water Borne Toxins Come Into Contact with Vital Organs

One of the major problems with contaminated water is that it contains endocrine disrupting compounds. These compounds remain in contact with major organs in the body. Many of the cases of cancer occur in parts of the body that are often in contact with the toxins found in the water. For example, Camp Lejeune victims have reported frequent cases of bladder and kidney cancer. The kidneys are the part of the body that are supposed to remove and filter toxins. The problem is that the toxins frequently contact the kidneys.

The toxins in the water also remain in the urine before they are passed outside the body. The urine itself contains numerous toxins. It is held in the bladder before it is released. Again, the continuous contact between toxins and the bladder increases the risk of cancer.

There are other parts of the body that are touched by these toxins. Essentially, any body part that contacts this water, from ingestion to elimination, is at risk of developing a tumor. For example, the chemicals in the water continuously through the throat and esophagus, leading to esophageal cancer. In addition, the toxic water can combine with food and end up in the digestive system, leading to an increase in colorectal cancers.

Cancers Caused by Benzene

Other toxins found in the water could cause other types of cancer. For example, one of the major problems with Camp Lejeune water was the high levels of benzene. The benzene levels in water tested from the Hadnot Point water treatment plant were 20 to 70 times the allowable amount. Once these levels were detected, they were so high that they resulted in an immediate shutdown of certain water wells.

Benzene has been connected with cases of leukemia. Lab testing has shown that benzene causes chromosome changes in bone marrow cells, leading to cancer. There is little debate that benzene is a known carcinogen. The chemical has also been connected to cancers such as:

  • lymphocytic leukemia (ALL),
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL),
  • multiple myeloma
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma

In addition to cancer, benzene can also cause the following long-term health effects:

  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Low red blood cell count
  • A low white blood cell count, which can lower the body’s ability to fight infections
  • A low blood platelet count, which can lead to excess bruising and bleeding.

Cancers Caused by TCE

Another major source of Camp Lejeune water contamination was Trichloroethylene. The levels of this chemical in water samples from Hadnot Point were nearly 300 times the allowable limit. The TCE seeped into the groundwater from the buried chemicals in the base’s dump and the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm. TCE also tainted Tarawa Terrace water because it was discharged from a nearby dry cleaners with poor waste disposal practices.

The most common type of cancer associated with TCE is kidney cancer. In addition, TCE has also been connected to liver cancer. TCE can create toxic liver metabolites that mutate and change genetic structures. TCE can cause damage to both cells and DNA. Once the TCE creates the liver metabolites, they travel through the bloodstream to impact other nearby organs, raising the potential that they can develop cancerous tumors.

Cancers Caused by PCE

The third major source of Camp Lejeune water contamination was perchloroethylene. This toxic substance predominantly affected the water from Tarawa Terrace. PCE is also used heavily in dry cleaning, and it was discharged by ABC One-Hour Cleaners. The chemical tainted the water wells that were dug in the vicinity of the dry cleaners. In addition, Tarawa Terrace was also located down gradient from other major sources of pollution.

Finally, testing of Camp Lejeune water also revealed high levels of vinyl chloride. This chemical has been connected to cancers, such as:

A rare form of liver cancer called hepatic angiosarcoma

  • Brain cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia

Cancers Caused by Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride is a biodegradation product of PCE. It was found in the water at both Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace. Vinyl chloride was found in some of the early tests in 1980, but these results were roundly ignored for several years until wells were shut down in 1985. 

The cancers that are most commonly associated with PCE are bladder and esophageal. Studies have shown that people who have worked in the dry cleaning industry (which uses PCE in its processes) have double the risk of these types of cancer than those who have not been exposed. Prolonged exposure to this chemical raises the risk of cancer even higher. PCE is a risk both when it is ingested and inhaled. There is some uncertainty about its carcinogenic properties, with some experts claiming that PCE is “probably carcinogenic.” The body does not metabolize the PCE before it eliminates the chemical.

Parkinson’s Disease from Camp Lejeune Water

There have been other health complications from Camp Lejeune water. One of the major illnesses diagnosed in people who have spent a considerable amount of time at Camp Lejeune during the affected period is Parkinson’s disease. This is a degenerative neurological condition that is caused predominantly by exposure to toxins in the environment. Most cases of Parkinson’s disease do not occur on their own. In particular, exposure to TCE has been linked with cases of Parkinson’s disease. Toxins can gradually break down brain cells and cause them to die.

Even if you developed one of the above-mentioned illnesses after spending time at Camp Lejeune, you would still need to demonstrate some type of causation. A Camp Lejeune lawsuit attorney can help you build the record needed to become eligible for financial compensation.