From 1953 to 1987, the waters at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with various substances. Some of these substances, such as PCE, have been linked to various health problems in the military community. Thousands of service members and their families may have been exposed to these substances, which may have contributed to chronic illnesses such as cancer.
Tetrachloroethylene or PCE, is a colorless liquid that was formerly used in dry cleaning fluids and stain repellants. It is classified as a chemical compound in the class of perchloroethylene (PCE). A report released in 1999 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency concluded that exposure to PCE is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the liver, lung, kidney, thyroid, bladder, pancreas, stomach, cervix, brain, skin, and bone.
Exposure to PCE can occur through two main routes: ingestion and inhalation. PCE can be ingested by drinking contaminated water or by consuming food that has been contaminated. It can also enter the body through the skin during exposure to contaminated water or when in contact with contaminated soil.
PCE can also be inhaled by breathing contaminated air or by breathing dust that is contaminated with PCE. It enters the body by passing through the lungs into the blood and eventually reaches the organs. Studies have shown that exposure to PCE can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, impaired liver and kidney function, anemia, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
These symptoms are often mild and temporary but in some cases, can become serious and even life-threatening. PCE can also cause damage to the reproductive system, nervous system, kidneys, liver, immune system, bones, and brain.
Groundwater contamination is primarily caused by industrial activities that release chemicals into the water and air. This water is then mixed with surface water or rain and travels to streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. High levels of PCE or PERC in Camp Lejuene water as a result of leaks in municipal water systems.
Animal waste can also contain PCE when it is disposed of at landfills or sewage treatment plants. When these waste materials are decomposed and released contaminants into the soil or water, they can contaminate sources of drinking water and food crops. Animal waste is commonly used as fertilizer on farms, which can expose nearby residents to toxins.
PCE is formed from a combination of ethylene oxide and chlorine gas. Ethylene oxide is produced during the production of polymers like plastics and rubber through a process called “oxo-chlorination.” Industrial facilities that produce these products often use chlorinated solvents to eliminate traces of chemical byproducts that are produced during the manufacturing process. The use of chlorine as a cleaning agent is common around chemical plants, pulp mills, metal foundries, automobile plants, chemical storage warehouses, and agricultural applications. Accidental spills and leaks of chlorinated substances can lead to the formation of PCE.
PCE is usually detected in drinking water at a level of less than 1 part per billion (ppb). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no known safe level of PCE exposure. Exposure to low levels of PCE may pose little risk to your health. However, higher levels of exposure have been linked to serious health complications in individuals of all ages.
Pregnant women and young children are at a higher risk for PCE exposure because they consume more food and water than adults do. They are, therefore, more likely to ingest contaminated water while swimming or playing outdoors. It is also recommended that people wash their hands regularly to reduce their risk of exposure to PCE.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to PCE while serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. Contact the personal injury team at your local law firm to find out whether you are entitled to compensation. In addition to physical injuries, the victims of PCE poisoning often suffer from emotional trauma, financial hardship, and lost wages. With the help of an experienced attorney, you may be able to receive compensation for all of your losses. Contact your local law office today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal rights.