A recent study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) revealed that people had a higher risk of developing cancer if they lived or worked at the North Carolina military base, Camp Lejeune, between 1953 and 1987.
Camp Lejeune's water was contaminated with toxic chemicals from waste disposal sites and storage tanks on the base. Although detected in the 1980s, no action was taken until 1998. The contamination is believed to have caused cancer, neurological problems, and reproductive disorders.
Camp Lejeune Victims & Families Are Angry About The Study's Status
Despite the study's potentially groundbreaking revelations, its unpublished status raises concerns about withholding information.
Chris Carberg, son of USMC John Carberg, who passed away from bladder cancer in 2018, has become a veterans advocate in the fight for justice at Camp Lejeune. Carberg, who spoke exclusively with Sokolove Law, believes the government's delay in releasing critical information is preventing veterans and their families from taking necessary action.
"This report could help victims educate themselves on how to take action, as some veterans are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that contamination actually occurred. The government is dragging their feet to try and run out the clock on our veterans, and it's disgusting."
- Chris Carberg, son of USMC John Carberg
What's In The Unreleased Camp Lejeune Report?
The latest study by ATSDR has established a link between water contamination and cancer.
Although the findings are yet to be published, they have already caused concern among those affected by the contamination.
Many people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune during the time in question are suffering from serious illnesses that they believe resulted from their exposure to the contaminated water. The ATSDR study validates their concerns and adds to their distress.
The report, submitted in April but not yet released by the ATSDR, has been frustrating for many.
Kenneth Cantor, a former National Cancer Institute epidemiologist who has reviewed the study, states that it significantly increases the known number of cancers linked to the base's contaminated drinking water.
The study's findings are seen as some of the most substantial evidence yet that the water contamination directly caused these cancers.
Michael Partain, who lived at Camp Lejeune as a child and later developed male breast cancer, has been vocal about the delay in releasing the report, suggesting that it aids the government in avoiding liability.
"By delaying the report, the ATSDR is aiding the government in defending itself from liability at Camp Lejeune, because these reports are critical to understanding the effects of our exposures," Partain told Reuters.
In contrast, ATSDR Director Aaron Bernstein emphasizes the ongoing review process, including a statistical review initiated in June and a pending second peer review.
The Camp Lejeune Study's Significance and Author's Perspective
The report's author, Frank Bove, is a senior epidemiologist at ATSDR and the Centers for Disease Control. He expressed frustration with the delay after his research started in 2015.
The study used data from every U.S. cancer registry, comparing cancer rates at Camp Lejeune to those at Camp Pendleton, a California Marine base without similar water contamination issues.
This comparison is regarded as "ground-breaking" by Cantor, who had access to the report during the peer review process.
After completing a peer review in April, the ATSDR initiated a statistical review in June. A second peer review, which will examine the author's revisions to the report, is yet to be completed. Once the author responds to the second peer review, the report will be reviewed by several offices within the ATSDR and, most likely, several offices within the CDC.
"I've been frustrated by the process," Bove stated in October at a meeting of Camp Lejeune's Community Assistance Panel.
The panel was formed to advise the ATSDR on research conducted on the base. Bove has over three decades of experience and has authored at least 20 ATSDR studies.
ATSDR Director Bernstein said that suggesting that the ATSDR is sitting on the report is a mischaracterization.
Historical Context and Legal Implications
In 1997, the ATSDR published a report about the tainted water at Camp Lejeune. However, it was widely criticized and eventually withdrawn for disregarding the health concerns related to the issue. Recently, a new study regarding the same matter was published.
Jonathan Cardi, a Wake Forest University School of Law professor specializing in environmental tort cases, noted that this study's findings could have significant legal implications, encouraging more plaintiffs to sue the U.S. government.
2023 Legal Updates: A Year of Significant Progress
As the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 marked its first anniversary, several critical developments have occurred:
- November 2023: The Department of Justice has extended multiple settlement offers through the Camp Lejeune Elective Option, with claims exceeding 117,000.
- October 2023: A Master Complaint consolidating all allegations has been filed, requiring a defense response within 45 days.
- September 2023: A voluntary elective payout option was announced, offering compensation between $100,000 and $550,000.
- August 2023: Over 1,100 federal lawsuits and 93,000 administrative claims have been filed, with projected payouts exceeding $21 billion.
- July 2023: Ed Bell, who works with Sokolove Law, was named lead counsel for the lawsuits, overseeing key aspects of the legal process.
Understanding the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 represents a pivotal moment, allowing civilian workers, veterans, and their families to seek compensation for injuries caused by the base's contaminated water.
Over 1 million individuals may have been affected during the contamination period from August 1953 to December 1987. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over $21 billion may be paid out in these lawsuits.
Implications for Veterans and Their Families
It's important to understand that filing a lawsuit won't affect VA benefits for Camp Lejeune. Claimants may be eligible for compensation from both the lawsuit and VA benefits.
Legal action can be taken even if the person affected has passed away, ensuring justice and compensation can still be sought for their suffering.
Looking Ahead For Options
The Camp Lejeune community is eagerly awaiting the finalization of the ATSDR review process. The results of this study and the ongoing legal battles could bring about a breakthrough in addressing the health problems and injustices faced by thousands of veterans and civilians who were exposed to the contaminated water at the base.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows individuals injured by water contamination at Camp Lejeune to pursue compensation.
Sokolove Law: Over 40 Years of Fighting for Veterans & Their Families
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