How to File a Camp Lejeune Parkinson’s Disease Claim
As the issue of water contamination and its association with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune comes to light, the legal team at Parker Waichman LLP stands as a beacon of hope for affected veterans. With a legacy of successfully advocating for veterans injured due to service-related hazards, the firm is committed to helping those who have served at Camp Lejeune seek rightful compensation. As research establishes a connection between exposure to trichloroethylene (“TCE”) and volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) in water and an elevated risk of Parkinson’s Disease, Parker Waichman LLP is determined to ensure that those who safeguarded our nation receive the justice and support they deserve.
To receive your free case review, call Parker Waichman at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
Elevated Parkinson’s Disease Risk Linked to Service at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
A new study was conducted to see if there is a potential link between exposure to contaminated Camp Lejeune groundwater from 1975 to 1985 with an increased risk for Parkinson’s Disease. Here is an overview of the study’s findings:
The solvent trichloroethylene (“TCE”), widely exposed to millions globally through various mediums like air, food, and water, has been identified as a potential risk factor for Parkinson’s Disease (“PD”). However, conclusive data on this correlation remain sparse.
The study’s purpose was aimed to assess the likelihood of Parkinson’s Disease among veterans stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, where trichloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) had contaminated the water supply. The results were compared with those of veterans who served at bases without such contamination.
An extensive cohort study was conducted to evaluate Parkinson’s Disease risk among Marines and Navy personnel who had lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (with contaminated water supply) or Camp Pendleton, California (with uncontaminated water supply) for at least three months from 1975 to 1985. The study period extended from January 1, 1997, until February 17, 2021. The study’s researchers utilized the Veterans Health Administration and Medicare databases to identify Parkinson’s Disease and related conditions, seeking International Classification of Diseases diagnostic codes. Medical records were reviewed to validate Parkinson’s Disease diagnoses.
The water supply at Camp Lejeune had been contaminated with several VOCs, primarily TCE, with monthly median values exceeding the permissible limit by over 70 times.
The study focused on the Parkinson’s Disease risk for ex-residents of Camp Lejeune in comparison to Camp Pendleton residents. The risk of prodromal Parkinson’s Disease features was also evaluated both individually and cumulatively using likelihood ratio tests in veterans not diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or other parkinsonism forms.
Accessible health data accounted for 46.4% of the total veterans or 158,122 individuals. Demographic distribution was fairly consistent between Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. Of the 430 veterans diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, 279 were from Camp Lejeune (0.33% prevalence) and 151 from Camp Pendleton (0.21% prevalence). Adjusted models indicated that veterans from Camp Lejeune had a 70% greater risk of Parkinson’s Disease (odds ratio, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.39-2.07; P < .001), but no increased risk was observed for other neurodegenerative parkinsonism types. An increased risk of prodromal Parkinson’s Disease diagnoses, such as tremors, anxiety, and erectile dysfunction, was also noted among Camp Lejeune veterans, along with higher cumulative prodromal risk scores.
The study indicates a potential increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease in individuals exposed to TCE and other VOCs in water four decades ago. This finding is particularly relevant given the ongoing global exposure to TCE, a pervasive environmental pollutant.
The Purpose of the Study
Previously, a small study involving twin pairs, with one twin having Parkinson’s Disease and the other not, suggested a sixfold increase in Parkinson’s Disease risk due to occupational exposure to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene. This claim finds support in animal studies that mimic essential pathological traits of Parkinson’s Disease, such as mitochondrial damage, accumulation of phosphorylated αsynuclein protein within neurons, and degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the nigrostriatal region. Despite its extensive industrial and commercial use over decades, the human epidemiology supporting a cause-and-effect relationship between TCE and Parkinson’s Disease is limited to the aforementioned twin study, a handful of case reports, and a group of industrial workers from a small manufacturing facility. Interestingly, TCE and another similar compound, tetrachloroethylene (“PCE”) are found in up to a third of US drinking water supplies, but only a single inadequately powered mortality study has examined the risk of Parkinson’s Disease due to TCE or PCE in drinking water.
Between 1953 and 1987, one of the most well-documented large-scale contaminations in US history occurred at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. During this time, the drinking water supplied to the base’s residents was polluted with TCE, PCE, and several other volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”). The contamination sources included leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills, and waste disposal sites on the base (primarily TCE) and a dry cleaning business off the base (mostly PCE). By the mid-1980s, contamination was discovered due to mandatory testing by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the affected wells were subsequently closed down. The period from 1975-1985 witnessed the highest contamination levels, with the estimated median TCE level hitting 366 μg/L—over 70 times the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) maximum allowable level of 5 μg/L. The maximum contaminant levels for PCE and vinyl chloride were also exceeded. Despite the limited epidemiological evidence, the US Congress and the Veterans Administration (VA) declared Parkinson’s Disease a presumptive service-connected condition for veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, in response to this contamination, thereby qualifying them for benefits.
Prompted by these circumstances, the researchers undertook a study to assess the Parkinson’s Disease risk among veterans who lived at Camp Lejeune during the peak contamination period (1975-1985) in comparison to those at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, a large California base without water contamination. Given that the pathology and clinical signs of Parkinson’s Disease start years before a formal diagnosis, the researchers also compared the incidence of conditions that might precede a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, referred to as prodromal Parkinson’s Disease
The Study’s Conclusions
To our knowledge, this is the inaugural study that explores the connection between Parkinson’s Disease and exposure to TCE-contaminated water in a large, robust, population-based cohort. We discovered that veterans residing at Camp Lejeune had a 70% increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease compared to their counterparts at Camp Pendleton during 1975-1985, a time when the TCE levels in Camp Lejeune’s water supply were approximately 70 times above the EPA’s maximum allowable limit. Interestingly, veterans without Parkinson’s Disease who lived at Camp Lejeune exhibited a higher risk of various clinical diagnoses recognized as preliminary signs of Parkinson’s Disease. Those who previously resided at Camp Lejeune showed higher accumulative prodromal risk scores and were 15% more likely to fall within the top 1% of these scores, indicating a possible pre-diagnostic stage of developing Parkinson’s Disease pathology. This finding is particularly significant given the long pathogenic progression of Parkinson’s Disease and the lengthy latency periods reported for many environmental risk factors associated with Parkinson’s Disease, including an earlier study of TCE in an older twin cohort.
Animal studies have corroborated a causal relationship between TCE and Parkinson’s Disease. TCE, when administered chronically to rodents, replicates Parkinson’s Disease’s histopathologic traits, causing a selective loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, increased intraneuronal phosphorylated αsynuclein, and microglia activation alongside increased markers of oxidative stress and related motor deficits. Oral intake of TCE decreases the activity of mitochondrial complex I, the target site of the Parkinson’s Disease -related pesticide rotenone, and the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. Other potential toxicity mechanisms could involve the induction of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 activity, endolysosomal dysfunction, and microbiome disruption, all factors implicated in Parkinson’s Disease development.
Even though TCE is a known carcinogen, its global consumption is on the rise. TCE has been used extensively in various industrial and commercial applications since the 1920s. It was the primary solvent for dry cleaning from the 1930s until the 1950s, when PCE replaced it. It was used as a surgical anesthetic and in decaffeinating coffee until the 1970s and was found in numerous household products like carpet cleaners and spot removers. Its main use in industry and the military has been for degreasing and cleaning metal parts, but workers in the textile, oil, and fats production, pharmaceutical, and chemical manufacturing industries may also be exposed. Today, TCE’s primary uses are in vapor degreasing and as an intermediate in the production of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants and other chemicals.
TCE is detected in 9% to 34% of US water supplies. Beyond the countless historical sources of exposure, environmental releases persist. TCE, highly persistent in soil and groundwater, has created large subsurface plumes worldwide, often unnoticed by the people living and working above them. Vapor intrusion into homes and businesses from contaminated soil frequently leads to inhalational exposure and may have intensified the exposure sustained by Camp Lejeune residents through their water supply. TCE is lipophilic and is readily absorbed through the respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal pathways. Exposure can occur through occupational usage, environmental point sources, vapor intrusion, or ingestion of contaminated food and water. Dermal and respiratory exposures may also occur during cooking and bathing. Given its environmental pervasiveness, TCE has been widely detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine.
In addition to the service members examined in this study, hundreds of thousands of family members and civilian workers exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may also face an elevated risk of Parkinson’s Disease, cancers, and other health-related complications. It is crucial to maintain prospective monitoring of this population moving forward.
Strengths and Limitations of the Study
According to the researchers, their study has numerous strengths. We used population-based cohorts encompassing all service members who lived at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton for over a decade. The researchers stated that they didn’t rely on potentially skewed self-reports to determine exposure; instead, we inferred exposure based on the camp of residence. The study’s researchers also confirmed Parkinson’s Disease diagnoses by reviewing medical records and applying established diagnostic criteria. The 0.27% prevalence they observed closely aligns with the expected prevalence for a population of this age distribution, suggesting thorough identification. They examined potential confounding by various variables and conducted sensitivity analyses that consistently associated both PARKINSON’S DISEASE and prodromal Parkinson’s Disease with residence at Camp Lejeune.
However, their study also has some limitations. They only had diagnostic data for cohort members who received health care through the VHA or Medicare, which might have resulted in biased ascertainment of Camp Lejeune veterans because of their awareness of the contamination and their eligibility for VA benefits if diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. They addressed this potential bias in several ways. The researchers also conducted analyses that excluded Parkinson’s Disease identified after the 2017 federal announcement of the diagnostic presumption or considered only cases occurring in veterans who were already receiving VA health care at their time of diagnosis. Importantly, we assessed the risk of Parkinson’s Disease prodromal features both individually and in two cumulative risk models. None of these features would qualify veterans for benefits, and their association with a future Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis would not be commonly known, reducing the risk of biased ascertainment among Camp Lejeune veterans. Moreover, adjusting for the duration of VHA health care usage didn’t weaken the associations between prodromal risk scores and residence at Camp Lejeune; instead, it reinforced them, arguing against differential VHA usage as a possible confounder. The researchers would also expect biased ascertainment to exist for all forms of parkinsonism, yet they didn’t observe any increased risk of progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, or multiple system atrophy at Camp Lejeune, disorders that likely have differing etiologies and have not been linked to TCE.
While contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune provides a highly plausible explanation for the increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease or prodromal Parkinson’s Disease, the researchers stated that they couldn’t be certain that everyone who resided at Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985 was exposed to biologically significant levels of contaminants. They also can’t account for other environmental exposures that individuals from either camp might have experienced before, during, or after military service. However, including unexposed individuals in the Camp Lejeune cohort would likely bias results toward the null. Differential exposure to environmental toxicants outside the camps could have occurred if former residents of Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton were more or less likely to encounter toxicants while deployed or if they were differentially exposed to toxicants where they lived and worked after leaving the military. We considered adjusting analyses for potential exposure to Agent Orange, but its usage ended in the early 1970s, meaning very few members of the cohort would have had the opportunity for exposure. Lastly, while TCE was the VOC present in the highest concentrations in the Camp Lejeune water supply, the water also contained high levels of PCE, vinyl chloride, and benzene. These other compounds, or mixtures of compounds, could have contributed to the associations we observed.
The findings of this cohort study suggest a 70% higher risk of Parkinson’s Disease among veterans exposed to TCE and other VOCs four decades ago. Trichloroethylene, a pervasive environmental contaminant used globally since the 1920s, has exposed and continues to expose many millions of people.
Comprehensive Toxics Addressment Act
The Comprehensive Toxics Addressment Act, also known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, is defined under Section 804 of the Honoring our PACT Act. This law is specifically designed to consider individuals who resided at Camp Lejeune.
This particular legislation facilitates the initiation of legal suits for suitable redress concerning injuries resulting from contact with polluted water at Camp Lejeune. Eligible individuals to file these lawsuits encompass veterans, their family members, survivors, or their legally designated representatives, and the suits can be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The right to file a lawsuit under this provision applies if one of the following conditions holds true:
- Either you have resided, worked, or in any other way, were exposed at Camp Lejeune for a cumulative duration of at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, or
- During your gestation period, your mother resided, worked, or in any other way, was exposed at Camp Lejeune for a cumulative duration of at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
It’s important to note that the PACT Act does not alter VA benefits tied to Camp Lejeune. However, the law broadens VA health care and benefits for Veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and other harmful substances.
How and Why Veterans Affected by Trichloroethylene Exposure Can File a Claim for Compensation
Millions of people have been exposed to the industrial solvent Trichloroethylene (TCE) over the past century. Its widespread usage in industries, from dry cleaning to metal degreasing, has led to contamination in soil, groundwater, and even drinking water supplies. A growing body of evidence has associated TCE exposure with various health conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Among those affected are veterans who resided at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where the drinking water was contaminated with TCE for several decades.
In 2017, the US Congress and the Veterans Administration (“VA”) recognized Parkinson’s Disease as a presumptive service-connected condition for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987. This designation is of great importance as it allows these veterans to file claims for compensation due to health damages from TCE exposure. If you or someone you know is a veteran affected by this issue, here’s a guide on why and how you can file a claim for monetary compensation.
Understanding the Presumptive Service-Connected Condition
A presumptive service-connected condition implies that the VA assumes certain conditions diagnosed in certain veterans were due to their military service. This is based on the unique circumstances of their service. If these conditions are diagnosed in a veteran in this specific group, the VA presumes that the circumstances of the veteran’s service caused the condition, and disability compensation can be awarded.
The Importance of Filing a Claim
Exposure to TCE and other volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) has been linked to several health conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease. The compensation not only acknowledges the harm caused by service-related exposure but also provides veterans with financial assistance to manage their health conditions. This can cover medical expenses, help support daily living activities, and compensate for lost earnings due to disability.
How to File a VA Claim
- Contact Parker Waichman LLP: Call our firm to receive your free case review.
- Gather Necessary Documentation: The first step in filing a claim involves gathering all necessary documentation. This includes medical records that document your Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, along with proof of your service at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- File an Initial Claim: After gathering your documents, you can file an initial claim. This can be done online through the eBenefits portal on the VA website, by mail with a completed VA Form 21-526EZ, or in person at a VA regional office.
- Participate in a C&P Exam: Once your initial claim is filed, you may be asked to attend a Compensation and Pension (“C&P”) exam. This exam, conducted by a VA or VA-contracted health care provider, will help determine the severity of your condition and the impact on your ability to work.
- Wait for a Decision: After your C&P exam, your claim will be reviewed, and a decision will be made. This process can take several months. During this time, it’s crucial to respond to any additional information requests from the VA promptly.
- Appeal if Necessary: If your claim is denied, or you disagree with the decision, you can appeal. You have one year from the date of the decision to initiate an appeal.
Filing a claim for compensation can be a complex process, and it’s beneficial to seek assistance. Veteran Service Organizations (“VSOs”), VA-accredited agents, and VA-accredited attorneys can help navigate the process and ensure all necessary information is included. Remember, you are not alone in this process, and there are resources available to assist you every step of the way.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION
Be sure to get the legal help you need for your Camp Lejeune Parkinson’s Disease claim. Contact Parker Waichman, LLP today by calling their toll-free number 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529). Their experienced attorneys are standing by to provide a free case evaluation and help you take the first steps toward obtaining the justice and compensation you or your loved one deserves.
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