Marines and Navy personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune had a higher risk of death from cancer and other serious conditions, according to a new retrospective study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The study shows that, compared to another military base with a number of similarities, personnel in Camp Lejeune had a higher risk of mortality for the following illnesses:
- Cancers of the cervix, esophagus, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, prostate, rectum, and soft tissue
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Multiple sclerosis
Marines and Navy personnel who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s through 1987 were exposed to several different toxic chemicals, such as benzene, in their water. The purpose of the study was to help determine whether or not being exposed to this tainted water increased the risk of death from cancers and other chronic illnesses.
Researchers conducted the study by analyzing the causes of death in 154, 932 Marines and Navy who started service between 1975 and 1985, and were stationed at Camp Lejeune at any time during this period. These personnel were compared to 154,969 Marines and Navy personnel stationed at Camp Pendleton, who were not exposed to contaminated water but were similar in military training, occupations and smoking.
Previous studies have linked Camp Lejeune water contamination to many causes of death, and these were all included in the study. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics National Death Index (NDI) was used to examine the causes of death from 1979 to 2008. Causes of death related to smoking were also included because “we did not have information on smoking status for study subjects” the study said. The findings for cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and stomach cancer suggest that smoking only had a minor effect on the link between causes of death and exposure to the tainted drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
The study found that people who had higher amounts of overall cumulative exposure to the chemicals were the ones with higher rates of kidney cancer, cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemias, multiple myeloma and lung cancer. In conclusion, “The study found increased risk of death in the Camp Lejeune cohort for several causes including cancers of the cervix, esophagus, kidney, and liver, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.”