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VA Study: Camp Lejeune vets face 70% higher Parkinson’s risk

Camp Lejeune Marine base. (Gaston Gazette/TNS)
May 16, 2023

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, toxic chemicals have polluted the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for almost four decades. As a result, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease by 70 percent.

In addition to degreasing metal parts, dry cleaning clothes and decaffeinating coffee, trichloroethylene (TCE) was used as a degreaser. According to a study funded by the VA and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Marines stationed at the base during at least 10 of those years had a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease than those at other bases.

From 1953 to 1987, Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was contaminated with TCE, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and other chemicals. Testing revealed the presence of carcinogenic chemicals in the base’s contaminated wells. Water contamination may have affected a million service members, civilians, and their families, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

READ MORE: These Marines drank Camp Lejeune’s poison. The road to justice is long

Study participants who served at Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985 were compared with Marines who served at Camp Pendleton, California. TCE was not present in Pendleton’s drinking water. During that time frame, 172,128 service members were stationed at Camp Lejeune, compared to 168,361 service members at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. A total of 158,122 veterans, covering the period of January 1, 1997 to February 17, 2021, were studied using health data from the Veterans Health Administration and Medicare databases. From this data set, 430 veterans developed Parkinson’s disease, with Lejeune veterans developing it 70% more often than other veterans.

According to the VA, Parkinson’s disease and seven other conditions are “presumed services connection” for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. In order to qualify for benefits and care, vets need only prove that they were assigned to Lejeune during those years or were otherwise exposed to its drinking water.

Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and their family members, are encouraged to apply at for the care and benefits they deserve.