Camp Lejeune water contamination tied to a range of cancers, CDC study says

In this 2022 photo, signage stands on the main gate to Camp Lejeune Marine Base outside Jacksonville, N.C. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

NEW YORK — Military personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1975 to 1985 had at least a 20% higher risk for a number of cancers than those stationed elsewhere, federal health officials said Wednesday in a long-awaited study about the North Carolina base’s contaminated drinking water.

Federal health officials called the research one the largest ever done in the United States to assess cancer risk by comparing a group who live and worked in a polluted environment to a similar group that did not.


The study found military personnel stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were at higher risk for some types of leukemia and lymphoma and cancers of the lung, breast, throat, esophagus and thyroid. Civilians who worked at the base also were at a higher risk for a shorter list of cancers.

The study is “quite impressive,” but cannot count as final proof that the tainted drinking water caused the cancers, said David Savitz, a Brown University disease researcher who is consulting for plaintiffs’ attorneys in Camp Lejeune-related litigation.

“This is not something we’re going to be able to resolve definitively,” he said. “We are talking about exposures that happened (decades ago) that were not well documented.”

But he said the new research will add weight to arguments made on behalf of people who got sick after living and working at the base.

Camp Lejeune was built in a sandy pine forest along the North Carolina coast in the early 1940s. Its drinking water was contaminated with industrial solvents from the early 1950s to 1985. The contamination — detected in the early 1980s — was blamed on a poorly maintained fuel depot and indiscriminate dumping on the base, as well as from an off-base dry cleaner.

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