Camp Lejeune Birth Defects Lawsuit | High Rate of Birth Defects


Birth defects, miscarriages, fetal deaths and Camp Lejeune child deaths were, tragically, all too commonplace at the Marine base in North Carolina. Much of the focus regarding toxic Camp Lejeune water has fallen on cases of cancer and Parkinson’s disease that victims have developed after prolonged periods of exposure. Overlooked in the years of attention paid to the issue is the effect that the toxic water had on children as well as birth defects caused by the Camp Lejeune water. Not only did children living on base consume the water and bathe in it, but also children who were conceived while their parents were on base suffered the effects. Studies have shown that children born to parents who lived at Camp Lejeune have a far higher rate of birth defects than they otherwise would have had. The camp lejeune water is infamous for causing such birth defects as: abnormally low birth weight, miscarriage, cardiac defects (heart defects), lymphomas, still birth major congenital malformations, oral cleft defects (cleft lip), neural tube birth defects (such as anencephaly and spina bifida), fetal deaths, heart problems and Immune system disorders. Camp Lejeune child deaths are one of the most tragic outcomes of this entire sordid story.

camp lejeune birth defect lawsuit
Camp Lejeune baby deaths, “baby heaven”

*This post was updated by a lawyer on February 7th, 2024 to provide the most current information to our readers about birth defects linked to the Camp Lejeune water.

Update- 9/18/23- NBC news issued a special report, “Their babies died when Camp Lejeune’s water was poisoned. But justice has been hard to find Camp Lejeune lawsuit birth defects” NBC news

“Women on the base quietly suffered repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and other defects during that time period, but many said their losses were often dismissed. Today, as they continue seeking justice under a new law meant to expedite litigation, their cases have fallen under intense scrutiny, which has left many women, including 23 who spoke to NBC News, feeling as dismissed as they felt decades ago.” Id.

“In the early 1970s, Kozobarich said adverse birth outcomes were so widespread among women on the base that some mothers treated it like a contagion, avoiding one another or hiding in their homes. “Everyone was afraid,” she said.” Id.

If a child was born with a birth defect after being exposed in utero to contaminated water at the Marine base at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, the victim may be eligible to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. Birth defects have been reported in victims who were born at Camp Lejeune including abnormally low birth weight, neural tube defects, oral cleft defects (for example: a cleft lip), and numerous serious congenital malformations. There have also been many reports of fetal deaths as well as miscarriages linked to the toxic water.

The ATSDR study found that in utero exposure to Camp Lejeune contaminated water caused a higher rate of birth defects. Babies born at Camp Lejeune had a four times greater likelihood to suffer from neural tube birth defects. The most common birth defects was anencephaly as well as spina bifida.

Neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida and Oral clefts

The CDC determined that since the 1980’s when the water contamination was first discovered, between 8,000 and 10,000 babies born at Camp Lejeune Marine base had birth defects diagnosed as cleft lip, oral clefts and neural tube birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined there was a link between birth defects and the toxic water at the Marine Base, Camp Lejeune . The CDC engaged in a comprehensive survey that indicated that women who were pregnant and consumed the tainted water at camp Lejeune had a greater likelihood of having children who suffered from birth defects.

The CDC’s study concluded that more than 10,000 babies born at Camp Lejeune had birth defects such as:

  • oral clefts,
  • cleft lip,
  • neural tube

Camp lejeune child deaths

Sadly Camp lejeune water is linked to childhood cancers. In 2003, a comprehensive research study determined that the childhood cancer rate at the marine base was over 15 times higher at the Marine base than the entire country. An ATSDR comprehensive research study concerning birth defects determined that children were diagnosed with childhood cancer that was caused by the toxic water. Researchers and medical professional describe these cancers as hematopoietic cancers. Hematopoietic cancers include: leukemia, lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A Camp Lejeune Cemetery was known as ‘Baby Heaven’

Thousands of babies born at Camp Lejeune who passed away (Camp Lejeune child death) as a result of miscarriages and stillbirths were sadly buried in a section of the cemetery very near Camp Lejeune called “Baby Heaven.” Because of an extremely high number of babies buried at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to 1980s, cemetery works would have no choice but to bury multiple babies together, according to the Washington Post. Tragically there were reports of mothers losing multiple infants as a result of the toxic water. Even if the baby did not die as a result of the contaminated water, severe health conditions, such as neurobehavioral effects were commonly reported.

VA Committee Determines Birth Defects Linked to Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water

In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) set up a committee of high powered, well educated experts to set forth guidance on determining how to apportion health benefits to veterans. The VA Committee was given the responsibility to look at evidence as well as prior CDC studies and counsel the Veterans Administration on medical conditions linked to the toxic Camp Lejeune water.

The Committee published a document named “VA Clinical Guidance on the Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation.” This report set forth the committees determinations and findings. The Committee’s report determined that there was credible scientific data to conclude that the toxic water at Camp Lejeune lead to a greater amount of neural tube birth defects: The committee determined that neural tube defects caused in-utero exposure to the chemicals in the tainted Camp Lejeune water.

Study Found Connection Between Camp Lejeune Contamination and Certain Birth Defects

Once the full effects of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune water began to become apparent, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry undertook an extensive survey to study potential birth defects in children. The agency asked parents whether they had children born with birth defects or who had developed cancer (There have also been cases of childhood cancer in people exposed to Camp Lejeune water, including a nine-year-old girl whose father helped lead the fight for medical benefits). The survey polled over 12,000 parents who were on the base from 1968-1983.

Connection- Trichloroethylene & Camp Lejeune Water

The study revealed that women who were exposed to contaminated Camp Lejeune water had up to four times the risk of giving birth to a child with certain types of defects. One of the main culprits was the chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE). This chemical is used for cleaning metal parts. There were various chemicals that were used at Camp Lejeune and at an off-base dry cleaner. For years, base personnel buried chemicals in a dump that was located perilously close to groundwater Wells. There were studies that showed that these Wells could degrade over time, yet the Marine Corps still used water from these Wells without considering the possibility that it may be tainted. Large amounts of chemicals were buried in the dump, and they eventually seeped into the groundwater.

Service members and Their Families Were Exposed to Toxic Water for Almost 35 Years

Camp Lejeune service members and their families were exposed to this water over a 35-year period. The Navy did not even realize for the first 27 years that there may be a possibility that the water was contaminated. It was not until 1980 that a scientist expressed concern over tainted water test results. Even after that, it was another seven years until the Marine Corps completely shut off the water treatment plants that Drew upon this contaminated water. There are estimates that over a million people were exposed to Tainted water, developing illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

The ATSDR study only looked at children born in the time period after 1968. Medical records were not available beforehand. Thus, the problem could be even worse than what was revealed in the study. The study asked parents to self-report what their children encountered. roughly 76% of parents participated in the study, giving the agency a relatively complete picture over that period of time.

TCE Chemicals and Neural Tube Defects

In particular, the ATSDR found that there was one specific birth defect that was strongly associated with contaminated Camp Lejeune water. The agency found that there were much higher instances of neural tube defects (NTDs) among children born to mothers exposed to Camp Lejeune water. There are two primary types of NTDs:

  • Spina bifida – This is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal column do not form properly. This defect can cause mild to severe physical and intellectual disabilities.
  • This is a severe birth defect that occurs when the baby is born with that part of their brain or skull. In most cases, a baby born with this defect will not survive for long. They may either be stillborn or have a life span of several days.

One other known effect of TCE exposure is an oral cleft. This defect is when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. The ATSDR study claimed that there was not a higher rate of oral cleft in babies born to mothers exposed to Camp Lejeune water. However, this finding is at odds with other research that analyzed other exposures to TCE that occurred in chemical spills elsewhere.

TCE Can Cause Other Birth Defects

TCE can have numerous harmful effects on the baby. The chemical can pass through the bloodstream and into the placenta. There have been several studies that have documented the dangers of TCE. One of the key risk periods is in the first two to eight weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s heart is developing. TCE exposure during this period can cause heart defects. Although TCE exposure does not ensure that the baby will be born with a heart defect, it greatly increases the chances.

In addition, women who were exposed to TCE during pregnancy have an elevated risk of delivering a baby well before term or with a low birth weight. Premature babies have the following health risks for the long term:

  • cerebral palsy
  • mental retardation
  • visual and hearing impairments
  • poor health and growth

Even babies born several weeks early have a higher risk for social and emotional disabilities over the course of their lifetime.

The Connection Between PCE Chemicals and Birth Defects

Although the ATSDR study found that there was a weaker association between exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) And birth defects, other studies have reached different conclusions. PCE Chemicals are often used to clean fabric by dry cleaners. There was one dry cleaner that was located off base that had a poor record of disposing of its chemicals. This dry cleaner was located up gradient from a water treatment plant on the base located only two miles away. The chemicals drifted downhill and seeped into the groundwater. Eventually, the dry cleaners site was designated for cleanup under the Superfund law.

Another study analyzed the effects of TCE and PCE on maternal and reproductive health. In this case, there was an industrial spill of volatile organic compounds in Endicott, New York, and over 4,000 women were exposed to TCE and PCE in the groundwater. In addition to reaching a similar conclusion about TCE as the ATSDR study, this analysis also found a connection between PCE exposure and certain birth defects. Specifically, the research showed that babies born to these mothers had higher rates of the neural tube defects described above and oral clefts.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) linked to Camp Lejeune Birth Defects

The supply of water at Camp Lejeune was polluted with dangerous VOC chemicals. The chemicals in the water included: Trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride. The se chemicals are infamously linked to birth defects.

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a type of solvent that was utilized at Camp Lejeune in order to clean parts made of metal. TCE is widely known to cause damage to the following: liver, the nervous system as well as kidneys. Researchers, scientists and medical doctors have linked TCE to such birth defects as: spina bifida, anencephaly, and numerous other serious birth defects.
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE) is a solvent used in a dry cleaning business that was located at the marine base. TCE is infamous for damaging the liver, kidney, and the heart. Medical doctors and scientists have linked PCE to anencephaly as well as other neural tube birth defects.
  • Benzene is a type of component that is contained in gasoline. Benzene was located in the water supply system at the Marine base as a result of fuel tanks that leaked. Benzene is widely known among physicians to cause damage to blood cells and there have been links to leukemia.
  • Vinyl chloride is a chemical utilized in plastics manufacturing. Vinyl chloride was located in the Camp Lejeune water. Vinyl chloride contaminated the water because of leaking storage tanks. Vinyl chloride is known to damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous system. The following birth defects are linked to Vinyl chloride: anencephaly and several other neural tube birth defects.

What is anencephaly?

“Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD). As the neural tube forms and closes, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull (upper part of the neural tube), spinal cord, and back bones (lower part of the neural tube). Anencephaly happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.” cdc

Act Now to File a Claim for Compensation for Camp Lejeune Injuries

Children who were born with these birth defects can file a claim for compensation decades later now that Congress has passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The legislation created a new cause of action that has allowed victims to file lawsuits. Previously, they were barred by both a legal interpretation called the Feres Doctrine and a statute of repose in North Carolina law that prohibited lawsuits more than ten years after the last act of pollution.

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit birth defects

Families can also file lawsuits if their child died from the birth defect or other birth-related conditions. Even though there is no presumed connection between the chemical exposure and the birth defects, families can put themselves in a position to receive financial compensation when they meet the relaxed standard of causation in the new law.

The toxic water at Camp Lejeune is also linked to Parkinson’s disease.

You have a limited amount of time to file a claim against the federal government for birth injuries caused by toxic Camp Lejeune water. According to the law, you have until August 2024 to file a lawsuit about a Camp Lejeune child death or other claim. After that, you would lose the right to sue. Therefore, you should schedule a free consultation with a Camp Lejeune claims attorney today.