How Your Time in The Military Could Be Connected to Your Leukemia Diagnosis

Military Service and Leukemia Diagnosis

A leukemia diagnosis is something extremely difficult to hear, especially considering the gravity and nature of the disease. One of the most important things to do when receiving such a diagnosis is to try and connect the dots to understand what might have caused the disease.

The causes of leukemia can be very diverse and it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what was the exact trigger. In some cases, it can be inherited, but it can also develop as a result of various external factors. It can also happen that a patient is born with a susceptibility to leukemia and later has the disease triggered by some environmental factors such as exposure to various toxic agents. Some of the causes that are mostly thought of to be linked with the development of leukemia include smoking, radiation, previous cancer treatment, and exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene.

Numerous studies have concluded that excessive exposure to benzene can cause damage to the bone marrow which results in a decrease of circulating blood cells and ultimately, AML (acute myeloid leukemia). For many years now, it has been known that benzene is a dangerous compound that can have devastating effects both on the environment and human health. Scientists have also observed that a benzene induced decrease in blood cells could happen within months after the exposure. However, it takes years for leukemia to actually develop.

Although benzene is one of the most known chemical compounds linked to leukemia, there is a possibility that others can facilitate the development of the disease as well, especially since very often contaminated environments might contain a mix of chemical compounds. One of the worst cases of contamination, specifically water contamination which may represent a cause for the development of leukemia in military veterans and their families, is what happened at Camp Lejeune.

The Toxic Exposure at Camp Lejeune Might Represent a Risk Factor for Leukemia and Other Types of Cancer

For more than 30 years, soldiers who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and their families have been exposed to various toxic agents from drinking water. Toxic waste was dumped directly onto the soil of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Upon examining the water system, a mix of chemical compounds has been found including benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride steaming from industrial solvents, dry cleaning fluids, lead, and fuel.

From 1953 to 1985, it is estimated that close to one million people – military personnel and their families who have been stationed at Camp Lejeune, have drank and bathed in water with concentrations as much as 3400 times over the permitted limit. From the total of eight water treatment plants on the base, the contamination appears to have affected two of them. In total, more than 70 chemicals have been identified in the water systems here, with possible sources of contamination including solvents used to clean military equipment both on and off base and even leaks from underground fuel storage tanks.

There have been reports and warnings regarding the excessive toxic contamination at Camp Lejeune as early as 1982 but no serious action was taken until 1997 when ATSDR started investigating water wells. Their report concluded that negative health effects such as cancer are unlikely for military personnel exposed to the contaminated water. That is because according to a later federal investigation, they overlooked the evidence pointing to the presence of benzene in the water. In 2009 however (that is 12 years later), they finally admitted that in fact the water systems have been contaminated with benzene, which is known for a century to be extremely dangerous to human health and a possible cause for various types of cancer. Apparently, the presence of this chemical compound can be explained by gallons of fuel leaking near the main well that serves Hadnot Point throughout the years in question.

Recent studies have found a direct relationship between exposure to the chemicals that have been found at Camp Lejeune (especially benzene) and various types of cancer. For many years, people have used contaminated water to drink, cook with, bathe in, and wash their clothes. Former military personnel and their families are now at high risk of developing not only leukemia but also other serious diseases such as:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Liver cancer

Why It’s Important to Understand the Sources of Toxic Exposure That Might Have Led to Your Disease 

Firstly, if you have been stationed at Camp Lejeune or served in an environment with possible toxic exposure, it’s very important to regularly check up on your health and disclose all these details to your doctors, as it might help with receiving a more accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosing leukemia or other types of cancer can happen and delaying appropriate treatment can lead to a poorer prognosis.

Understanding the source of toxic exposure that has lead to your diagnosis can also help you take legal action and recover compensation, which can be an immense help when it comes to covering treatment costs which can be quite high. In regards to those who have developed leukemia or any other type of cancer as a result of their exposure to toxic agents from the water at Camp Lejeune, on July 2012, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill authorizing medical care to all military personnel and family members who resided at the base between 1957 and 1987. This bill applies to 15 diseases that are thought to be linked to toxic exposure, including leukemia, lung, breast, bladder, and kidney cancer, renal toxicity as well as infertility.

Over the past years, solid medical and scientific evidence has been made available, supporting the causal relationship between the toxic exposure that occurred at Camp Lejeune and leukemia, as well as other serious health issues. Veterans, reservists, guardsmen, and their family members are eligible for compensation if they were present at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 for at least 30 days. The children of women who were pregnant during their time at Camp Lejeune are also entitled to receiving compensation is they develop one of the diseases linked to the water contamination there.

It is important to note that for the toxic exposure occurring at Camp Lejeune there are two separate types of claims that you can submit – for the VA and for the companies responsible for the water contamination.

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