Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis and Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

November 4, 2022
Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis and Camp Lejeune Water Contamination The problems with the water at Camp Lejeune started nearly 70 years ago, and today many victims and their families are still facing the repercussions of exposure to contaminated water during their time at the base. The water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was so toxic that research now proves it has dramatically increased victims' chances of developing Parkinson's disease. Throughout the 34 years that the water contamination was rampant at the base, hundreds of thousands of people worked and lived at the base. Estimates bring the figure close to one million potential victims of the widespread water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The passage of time has proven that many victims suffered unexpected effects on their health because of the contaminants present in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune water supply. People used the water daily to bathe, clean, cook, and drink. The pervasiveness of the contamination increased the risk of future health problems and illnesses for those who were unknowingly subjected to long-term occupational exposure of living exposure to toxic chemicals. Camp Lejeune veterans sustained contaminated water exposure day in and day out which posed a significantly increased risk of Parkinson's disease. It should not have taken 34 years to identify and stop the contamination. The water remained unchecked for far too long, and too many people's lives were at risk and exposed to the potential development of illness. For decades, many have fought for the rights of Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. Now, the legislation allows victims to seek damages for their losses related to illnesses developed due to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

Camp Lejeune Parkinson's Disease and Water Contamination

For many, the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease comes as a surprise and can be a traumatic moment that brings feelings of confusion and uncertainty. In most cases, the cause of Parkinson's disease can remain unknown. However, studies have shown that exposure to certain substances and environmental factors could cause a person to develop the disease later on down the line. Camp Lejeune and Parkinson's Disease have a strong link.
At the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune, scientific and medical evidence revealed that the contaminated drinking water there exposed individuals to higher risks of Parkinson's disease. In turn, residents of Camp Lejeune faced an exponentially high risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
Of all the environmental toxins and toxic substances found in the water at Camp Lejeune military base water system, one, in particular, creates a significantly increased risk of Parkinson's disease. Testing found TCE, also known as trichloroethylene, in high concentrations throughout the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune specifically the water going in and out of the Hadnot Point water treatment plant.

What Is TCE?

Trichloroethylene, TCE, is not an everyday substance that should be present in water, let alone in drinking water. It is a compound used in various products, but in the instance at Camp Lejeune, its presence is likely related to cleaning materials. TCE is a common ingredient in cleaning solutions and solvents used by dry cleaning companies in their operations and to clean metal equipment such as tanks commonly found at a military base. TCE is also a known carcinogen or cancer-causing substance identified as such by the National Cancer Institute. Other substances of concern found in the drinking water throughout the contamination period at Camp Lejeune include PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. The contaminants in the Camp Lejeune water supply were at an alarming level many times greater than what was deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Camp Lejeune and Parkinson's Disease - The Scientific Studies

The single most conclusive scientific research illustrating a link between Camp Lejeune's water and Parkinson's disease is the "Goldman study." The full name of this study is Solvent exposures and Parkinson’s disease risk in twinsAnnals of Neurology 2012;71(6):776-784. The Goldman study found that occupational exposure to TCE and PCE greatly increased the risk of Parkinson's disease compared with the general population. In fact, those exposed to TCE were six times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease compared to the general population. Those exposed to PCE were ten times as likely to have developed Parkinson's disease. Another scientific research study entitled, Trichloroethylene, a ubiquitous environmental contaminant in the risk for Parkinson's disease, illustrated that TCE causes degeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the brain which in turn slowly results in the onset of Parkinson's disease. In 2009, the National Research Council (NRC), published a study titled Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune: Assessing Potential Health Effects. This report contained epidemiological studies displaying potential health outcomes relating TCE and PCE exposure to the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. These harmful chemicals are linked to a wide variety of medical issues and a host of cancers per this study. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has similarly performed a number of research studies again linking these primary contaminants in the water supply at Camp LeJeune to a subsequent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Camp Lejeune residents were routinely exposed to harmful chemicals and known carcinogens, such as TCE and PCE. Thus, we believe there is a very strong causal link relating to Camp Lejeune Parkinson's disease based on independent scientific evidence.

Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Contamination of Water at The Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

It is impossible to know how many people developed Parkinson's disease after their time consuming or using the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. There were some studies looking at small factions of the population serving at the base during the contaminated water period have taken place. Studies of former civilian employees working at Camp Lejeune revealed a significantly higher risk of developing certain illnesses and death related to conditions likely arising from contaminants in the Camp Lejeune water supply. Further, these studies of disease linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune reflected that the Parkinson's disease risk for Camp Lejeune residents was much higher than the general population.

How Did the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Happen?

While knowing what was in the contaminated Camp Lejeune water supply can help you understand why you likely developed Parkinson's disease, you may wonder what the cause of the contamination was. TCE and the other contaminants of the Camp Lejeune water do not just appear in water sources. The fact that it remained present in the water until the late 1980s indicates that it was routinely seeping into the water system or put there through the actions of others. Many studies have looked into what the source of the contamination was during the contamination period at Camp Lejeune. The contamination of TCE in the water appeared to have primarily occurred at the Hadnot Point water plant, which provided water to several areas, including certain residential areas. In addition, there were multiple sources of Camp Lejeune contamination, including on-base dry cleaning, storage of cleaning materials, improper disposal of waste, seepage into the ground from storage facilities, and leaks and spills at industrial sites.

The Impacts on Victims Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease

Although medical advances in treatment options and therapies have greatly improved the potential quality of life and life expectancy for individuals that develop Parkinson’s disease, the illness is still a life-altering diagnosis. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and how the disease will progress in an individual is often unpredictable. The progressive condition’s symptoms will worsen with time, and the impacts on a person’s life will grow more severe. A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can affect your relationships, your ability to work, and your future plans.

Why Could Victims Who Developed Parkinson’s Disease Not Seek Compensation for Their Damages Until Now?

The history that surrounds the Camp Lejeune water contamination is long and troubling. Lack of testing, delayed action, overt inaction, and delays in offering help to victims all combined to allow this injustice to go on for almost 70 years. For decades testing of the base’s drinking water was nonexistent. When testing became widely implemented, the results were often overlooked, ignored, and set aside. Even when many tests revealed that there was contamination of the water with hazardous materials, the reports of various officials and departments were repeatedly ignored. Significant action did not begin to occur until the mid to 1980s when the danger posed by the water at Camp Lejeune was apparent, the most affected water treatment plants closed, and the EPA became involved in the investigation of the site. The delay in action and testing of the water was only the beginning of the hurdles victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination faced. While the immediate water contamination issues were finally addressed in the late 1980s, the government did not provide support and assistance options to victims of the contamination until decades later. Due to the delay in the realization of the water contamination problem and the development of conditions over time, many victims had no options for legal remedies once they discovered the link between their illness and the water contaminants. In North Carolina, the statute of repose for personal injuries is ten years. The law bars the recovery for any victim coming forward after that time regardless of when they discovered their illness or injury relating to negligent actions. Furthermore, it was not until 2012 that legislation allowing victims to seek support for their medical expenses and disability conditions passed.

What Was the Camp Lejeune Families Act?

This legislation was passed in 2012, and its enactment intended to help victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination that developed certain illnesses to get help with their medical costs. The law allowed victims to file a claim for disability benefits, reimbursement of medical expenses, and free medical care with the VA if they were at Camp Lejeune and then developed one of eight qualifying medical conditions. Many victims took action and filed a claim for benefits after the law was passed. However, red tape and stringent evaluation of claims resulted in many denials, and many victims were offered no benefits or compensation.

How Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Different From Prior Legislation?

The enactment into law of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act occurred in August of 2022. This new legislation offers renewed hope and opportunity to the Camp Lejeune water contamination victims and their families. This legislation passed with the aim to fix what the Camp Lejeune Families Act could not and what it failed to do for many victims affected by the contamination catastrophe. Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, families and victims can file legal action against the government immediately to claim damages for the development of illness from the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The statute requires that a victim has proof of stationing at the base, working, or in another way having exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days total during the time between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. The enactment of this federal law works to override the laws in North Carolina previously barring victims from pursuing damages for the events at Camp Lejeune relating to their exposure to contaminated water. Those who could not previously file a lawsuit and/or those previously denied benefits by the VA now have a chance to seek money for their losses under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Recent Camp Lejeune legislation finally provides former residents (and their family members) of Camp LeJeune and MCAS New River with the ability to recover financial compensation for the numerous health conditions and certain diseases related to water contamination. Parkinson's disease is just one of many health conditions identified by the Veterans Administration.

What Compensation Might Victims of the Water Contamination and Their Families Recover?

The type of compensation available to victims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act includes the potential for recovery of economic and non-economic losses. Where the prior laws only addressed medical losses and disability compensation, this statute allows Camp Lejeune Parkinson's disease victims to seek more comprehensive compensation that includes the brunt of the damages they sustained due to their illness arising from the water contamination. As a victim of the water contamination in Camp Lejeune that later developed Parkinson’s disease, you can fight for compensation for:
  • Medical losses. Medical support and care for Parkinson’s disease are ongoing. There is no cure, and you will need lifelong medical treatment and care to live comfortably and address the progression of the disease over time. As part of your damages claim, you can include past, current, and future medical expenses necessary for managing your illness.
  • Loss of income. Parkinson’s disease will progress gradually over time. While the symptoms may not initially affect our ability to work, they may have a more significant impact as time goes on and if the disease progresses more rapidly than expected. You may file a claim for income losses, future income, and any other earnings you have missed out on because of your diagnosis.
  • Pain and suffering. The pain you endure due to your condition and the emotional and mental frustration and anguish are all recoverable as part of your claim for damages. Pain and suffering may be something personal to you, but it is something that can have an enormous effect on the quality and enjoyment of your life. Under the statute, the recovery of this loss is allowable and, depending on the extent of your illness and the impacts of the disease on your life could equate to a considerable amount of money for you.
  • Wrongful death. If you are a family member of a victim that died from the progression of Parkinson’s disease or complications, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim that can include payment for burial and funeral expenses, outstanding medical debt, and other related losses.
Camp Lejeune victims have numerous options for financial compensation.

Who Can Pursue Compensation After a Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis?

Following the statute's language, anyone who meets the eligibility criteria of time spent at the base and exposure can be eligible for compensation relating to Camp LeJeune Parkinson's disease. This includes civilians, military members, and their families.

Are There Time Constraints on When Victims Can Choose to Seek Compensation?

This statute does not allow an open-ended timeframe for victims to take their time and file a claim for damages. The window of time where a claim is allowable is only for a short period of time. Most victims must file their lawsuit in court before August 10, 2024, for consideration. Anyone filing an action beyond this time limit will likely be unable to go forward with their case against the government for damages. If you or a loved one developed Parkinson’s disease after time at Camp Lejeune during the water contamination, you might be eligible for compensation. Contact a  Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer for your free case evaluation.

Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis and Camp Lejeune Water Contamination FAQs

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is not something that occurs in an instant. There is not one go-to test that will definitively provide you with a result showing you have developed Parkinson’s disease. Instead, Parkinson’s disease diagnosis may happen over time, similar to how the condition develops. As an individual begins to show signs of the disease and develop more symptoms, the diagnosis is more likely. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease commonly overlook the subtle signs of the disease.

How Long Can It Take for Parkinson’s Disease to Develop?

Research indicates that the changes to your brain from Parkinson’s disease occur much earlier than when a person will begin presenting with significant symptoms and discover something might be wrong. Studies have shown that internal changes can happen as early as six years before an individual begins to feel any symptoms. Due to the nature of Parkinson’s disease progression, many years can go by from when a person’s exposure to contaminants and other environmental causes leads to the disease. Typically, Parkinson’s disease is most common in individuals older than 60. However, it is possible to develop early onset Parkinson’s, which the medical community defines as occurring before the age of 50. If you developed Parkinson’s disease after exposure to contaminants in the water at Camp Lejeune, it is likely many years and possibly decades before the disease reveals itself. Furthermore, it can take additional time for a doctor to link your symptoms to a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. This is one of the many challenges victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination must face in dealing with the past aftermath and effects of the contamination occurring many decades.

Who Was Most at Risk of Developing Parkinson’s Disease from the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

The development of illness from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune occurred both in civilians and members of the military and family spending time at the base. It did not matter whether you were living on base or working on the base; if you had incidents of exposure to the water in your day-to-day activities while at Camp Lejeune, you were at risk of exposure to the properties and toxic materials in that water. The more time an individual was at the base during the period of contamination, the higher the chance they could develop a threat to their health. One of the statute’s requirements allowing for recovery of damages is that a person must show they were at the base for a minimum of 30 days. This does not necessarily mean a victim must show they were at the base for 30 days straight but rather that, in totality, there were at least 30 days of their cumulative time at the Camp Lejeune military base. The reality is that many of the victims spent significantly more time than 30 days on the military installment. Families and service members stationed at the camp could likely be there for months or years. At the same time, civilians working at the base could spend much of their careers at the base, depending on their role or position.

How Can Parkinson’s Disease Affect an Individual and Their Family?

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating diagnosis and illness. The neurological impacts of the condition continue to progress and deteriorate an individual’s motor functions and health over time. While the initial stages of the disease could have very little impact on a victim’s functions and day-to-day life, when the disease advances, it takes a heavy toll on an individual’s independence and capacity. Parkinson’s disease has a serious effect on the quality of life of a person, their future, and on the lives of those supporting and caring for the individual affected.

Did the Contaminants in the Water Cause Other Illnesses or Injury?

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune contained numerous hazardous materials, including not just TCE but also PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. All cancer-causing agents with the potential to inflict additional stresses on the body resulting in various medical disorders or conditions. From organ cancers to lymphomas, birth defects, and neurological disorders, the possible implications on the health of victims from the contaminants present in Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 are widespread. Although there may not be a definitive link from studies conducted to every ailment suffered by contamination victims, many different conditions and disorders have been reported. Furthermore, in-depth research and studies on the matter have revealed that certain medical conditions developing in the Camp Lejeune water contamination victims were likely the result of exposure to the water at the base. When processing disability claims relating to the contamination at Camp Lejeune, the VA specified eight illnesses as presumptively caused by the contamination.

Is Parkinson’s Disease One of the Presumptive Conditions Identified by the Government?

The list by the VA referring to the diseases they identify as presumptive or likely linked to the contamination at Camp Lejeune is helpful when considering your potential claim for damages arising from an illness. The list is not exclusive to the potential basis for legal action under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The government is still likely to consider any illness or harm a victim believes occurred because of the exposure suffered at Camp Lejeune. However, if the illness you developed is on the list, then the government may prioritize those cases, and the perception of the validity of your claim is stronger. The illnesses on the presumptive conditions list delineated by the VA include:

Can You File a Lawsuit if You Filed for VA Benefits Relating to Camp Lejeune Exposure in the Past?

Although civilians did not have the option to file for benefits with the VA in the past, some military members and their families affected by the water contamination had the opportunity to claim disability benefits and/or medical costs under the Camp Lejeune Families Act. If your claim was successful and you received benefits, whether as a veteran or family member, this does not prevent you from seeking additional compensation if eligible at this time. While disability benefits and medical payments may have covered some of your losses, the amount of compensation and type of damages covered by these offerings is not enough to cover the extent of all of your losses. Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, you are eligible to seek all of your damages that relate to the development of your illness arising from the poisoned water at Camp Lejeune. You may include damages for medical costs, loss of income, and pain and suffering in your claim under the act. The government will consider the benefits received by you in the past when calculating your potential damages. However, it does not prevent you from seeking payment for additional damages you have not received money for.

Can Parkinson’s Disease Cause Death?

While the disease is not known to directly cause a person to lose their life, it significantly impacts their ability to move and function which can have implications on how the body deals with other health risks and external factors. For example, the impacts of the disease can cause a wide range of complications and heightened risks which may result in a person’s death from Parkinson’s disease. The strain that the disease places on the body can make managing other illnesses and deterioration of health more rapid than when the disease is not present. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have higher mortality rates based on the disease and other factors.

What If Your Loved One Died After Their Time at Camp Lejeune?

If your loved one with Parkinson’s disease died after exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune, you might have a basis for a wrongful death claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The act not only provides an avenue for recovery for the victims directly affected by the water contamination, but it also affords surviving families of victims who died after their time at the base an opportunity for justice on their loved one’s behalf. Wrongful death claims appear to be allowable under the legislation. Who can bring forward these wrongful death claims and the damages available to the party filing the lawsuit will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. If your loved one passed away after a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis or another ailment you believe relates to their time at Camp Lejeune, schedule an evaluation with a Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney. During this free consultation, you can discuss what legal options are available to you and whether you are eligible to file a claim.

What Can You Do to Help Prepare Your Case for a Possible Lawsuit Seeking Compensation?

Taking action as soon as possible is necessary if you plan to file a claim for damages related to your illness. The statute of limitations attached to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is very short. Additionally, with many claims expected from victims and families, it is best to initiate the process sooner rather than later. In the meantime, there are some steps you can take now to prepare your case.

Collect Evidence for Your Claim

The requirements of the legislation allowing recovery for victims place a burden on the plaintiffs to prove their illness and the time they spent at Camp Lejeune. Since exposure to the contaminants could have occurred anywhere from 35 to 70 years ago, tracking down some evidence to support your claim for damages could be difficult. Therefore, you must be able to prove that you were on the base for a total time of at least 30 days during the time of August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

What type of evidence can you use to prove these elements?

  • Medical history. Any medical documentation can help prove your diagnosis and support the claim that the water contamination caused your illness. Contacting past doctors and medical facilities where you received treatment to begin the process of accessing records can be helpful.
  • Military paperwork. If you have your military records, such as DD form 214, this will specify where and when you were at the Camp Lejeune base.
  • Employment history. Civilians do not have military records that will show their employment on base, but they may have access to employment records with the department or company they worked for while at Camp Lejeune.
  • Housing agreements. For families of military members that lived on base, you can use housing records such as leases and rental agreements to show the years you lived at Camp Lejeune.

Will the Government Accept Your Claim and Pay Your Damages Without Resistance?

Personal Injury Lawyer
Matt Dolman, Camp Lejeune Attorney
Unfortunately, this is not likely. Although the government now allows victims to claim damages for the harm caused by the water contamination, this does not mean that your claim will be automatically accepted and paid out. Lawyers and agencies will still have a hand in determining and negotiating how much a victim should get and whether they even qualify for damages under the legislation. Therefore, you will need an advocate for your interests to ensure that those handling your claim do not overlook your rights or try to lessen your damages unjustifiably.

Should You Hire a Lawyer for Help with Your Camp Lejeune Case?

If you developed Parkinson's disease and were at Camp Lejeune during the time of the water contamination risks, you should immediately call a lawyer for a consultation. Camp Lejeune victims, now have the ability to seek legal recourse. We are presently representing hundreds of Camp LeJeune victims. We anticipate filing (with the assistance of local North Carolina counsel) over one hundred Camp LeJeune Parkinson's disease lawsuits over the coming months. However, a condition precedent to the filing of such Camp Lejeune lawsuits is the filing of individual claims with the Department of Navy which will have six months to accept or reject such claims. Submitting a claim to the Department of Navy and waiting six months is a condition precedent to filing a Camp LeJeune lawsuit for Parkinson's disease.

Camp LeJeune Parkinson's Disease Law Firm

The Dolman Law Group is a nationally recognized personal injury and products liability law firm. Our attorneys have over 130+ years of experience and have obtained over $250 Million in compensation for our clients. With the assistance of local counsel, we are handling Camp Lejeune Parkinson's disease claims nationwide. Hire a Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney to represent you in your claim against the government. We believe Parkinson's disease from Camp LeJeune claims will exceed $500,000 in average settlement value. Your lawyer will make sure to fight for your interests and the maximum compensation possible for your losses related to the contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station New River (MCAS New River) in North Carolina. Keep in mind, we offer a free consultation and case review for those who performed military service, family members, and civilian contractors who resided at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More