The Primary Contaminants in the Drinking Water of Camp Lejeune

Individuals who became ill after spending time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were likely exposed to a series of volatile organic chemicals (VOC) that unknowingly leaked into the base’s water supply. These were chemicals used for dry cleaning, cleaning weapons and machinery, and a component in fuels.

Primary Contaminants in the Drinking Water of Camp Lejeune

Despite regular water treatment, these chemicals were still in the water supplied to base housing. Marines, their families, and civilian workers who spent 30 days or more at the base may have been made seriously ill by these chemicals.

VOC Contaminants

Of all the toxic chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water system, these were found in the largest amounts:

Benzene and toluene, chemicals found in gasoline and other types of fuel
Methylene chloride, a chemical solvent used in laboratories and in the removal of paint
Trichloroethylene (TCE), primarily used as a metal cleaner, used for tasks such as cleaning weapons, engine parts, and machinery
Tetrachloroethylene (also known as PCE, perc, or perchloroethylene), primarily used for dry cleaning
Vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethylene, and 1,1-dichloroethylene, breakdown products of TCE and PCE

All the chemicals are known human carcinogens. No one knows how much of these chemicals were regularly dispersed in the drinking water or for exactly how long. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), as part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has an entire section on its website dedicated to Camp Lejeune’s water contamination, complete with reports and other information.


Over the years, people who have spent time at Camp Lejeune during the affected period have experienced a wide range of serious health problems that include:

• Cancers of various types
• Birth defects
• Miscarriage and fetal deaths from exposure during pregnancy (in utero)
• Cardiac defects
• Liver cirrhosis
• Parkinson’s Disease
• Autoimmune diseases, including Scleroderma
• Kidney problems, including end-stage renal disease
• Neurological effects
• Neurobehavioral effects

At the time, no one attributed the illnesses to the drinking water until the discovery of the contamination. While there is a list of known side effects—the VA calls these “presumptive conditions” for service members—many other illnesses may have been caused by the chemical exposure but are not yet recognized.


The chemicals went undetected until the early 1980s, but the Marine Corps didn’t close all the contaminated facilities until late 1987. Notification began in 1984 with an article run in the base’s newspaper and a press conference in 1985. The base also has a notification database on its website for former residents.

The ATSDR’s position is that the ingestion of these VOCs was a strong contributor to the adverse health effects experienced by Marines, their families, and civilians working at Camp Lejeune during the affected time frame. The complete report is available online, with additional reports throughout the site.

Camp Lejeune Claim? Contact The Herren Law Firm Today

Until recently, only veterans could request help through the VA for their medical conditions. After the signing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, family members and civilian workers can now file a claim for compensation due to the harm they suffered from the contaminated water.

If you or someone you know became ill after working or being stationed at Camp Lejeune, contact us immediately for help filing your claim. There is a short time period in which you can file a claim. Act now.

We’ve helped over 4,000 people, and we can help you as well. Contact us today by calling (713) 682-8194 or using our online contact form our consultation is free, and you won’t owe us a fee until we win your case.

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