Three Instances When US Military Bases Faced Severe Health Crises

Military bases are often seen as bastions of security and safety, where soldiers train, live, and work. However, beneath this facade of strength and discipline, there have been instances where these bases have faced severe health crises.

Whether due to environmental contamination, infectious diseases, or chemical exposures, the health risks posed to military personnel and surrounding communities cannot be overlooked.

US Military Faced Severe Health Crises

In this article, we look into three such instances where US military bases found themselves grappling with significant health crises.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination:

Perhaps one of the most notorious cases of environmental contamination on a US military base is the Camp Lejeune water contamination incident. Situated in North Carolina, Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base, experienced water contamination dating back to the 1950s through the 1980s.

The contamination stemmed from the improper disposal of various toxic chemicals, including industrial solvents and fuel, seeping into the base’s drinking water supply.

The consequences of this contamination were dire. Tens of thousands of military personnel, along with their families and civilian employees, were exposed to toxic chemicals. These included trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride, among others.

According to TorHoerman Law, these contaminants have been linked to various health issues, including cancer, birth defects, and neurological disorders.

Recent research, reported by CBS News, conducted by the ATSDR, examined approximately 211,000 individuals at Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985. The study compared them to 224,000 individuals at Camp Pendleton during the same period. It found a minimum 20% higher risk of several cancers among those at Camp Lejeune.

Specifically, military personnel at Camp Lejeune faced elevated risks of certain types of leukemia and lymphoma. They also faced increased risks of cancers affecting the lung, breast, throat, esophagus, and thyroid.

Additionally, civilians employed at the base were also found to have a heightened risk of a smaller set of cancers.

Despite awareness of the contamination as early as the 1980s, decisive action to address the issue was postponed. This delay sparked public outcry and led to lawsuits filed over the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Government authorities were sued for their failure to take proactive measures to mitigate the contamination, leading to prolonged problems.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act was passed. This act offered healthcare to those affected by the water contamination.

However, the consequences of the delayed response continue to impact the lives of numerous veterans and their families. They await the Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement amounts for the harm endured.

Gulf War Syndrome:

The Gulf War of 1990-1991 saw the deployment of over 600,000 US troops to the Middle East, primarily to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. However, following the conflict, many veterans began reporting unexplained symptoms, including chronic fatigue, joint pain, cognitive issues, and gastrointestinal problems. This cluster of symptoms came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome (GWS).

The exact cause of GWS remains elusive. Theories range from exposure to chemical warfare agents, such as nerve gas and mustard gas. Environmental hazards like depleted uranium munitions and smoke from oil well fires are also considered potential causes.

Additionally, factors such as stress, vaccinations, and the use of pyridostigmine bromide pills as a nerve agent pretreatment further complicate the picture.

A recent study led by Duke University reveals that Gulf War Illness (GWI) affects around 250,000 U.S. veterans. It notably diminishes the energy production of their white blood cells. This leads to a distinct biochemical variation in veterans afflicted with the illness.

The health implications of GWS have been profound, with many veterans experiencing long-term disabilities and diminished quality of life. Despite extensive research and advocacy efforts, there remains no universally accepted treatment or explanation for GWS, leaving veterans and their families frustrated and seeking answers.

Agent Orange Contamination:

During the Vietnam War, the US military employed the widespread use of herbicides, notably Agent Orange, to defoliate forests and destroy enemy hiding spots. However, the toxic legacy of Agent Orange extended beyond its intended battlefield use. This led to widespread environmental contamination and severe health consequences for both military personnel and civilians.

According to Cleveland Clinic, Agent Orange contains dioxin, a toxic compound formed from the burning of chlorine with carbon and hydrogen. Dioxin molecules are harmful to plants, animals, and humans, causing damage to vital organs, cells, the immune system, and hormones when ingested.

The United States Institute of Peace reports that 19.5 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed during the Vietnam War. As a consequence, Vietnam veterans and residents of contaminated areas have experienced higher rates of cancer, respiratory issues, and other chronic illnesses.

Despite decades of research and recognition of the health risks associated with Agent Orange exposure, the full extent of its impact continues to unfold. Efforts to provide compensation and healthcare to affected veterans have faced bureaucratic hurdles and legal challenges. Many are left to contend with the physical and emotional toll of their exposure without sufficient support.


What led to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune resulted from improper disposal of toxic chemicals. These chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), seeped into the base’s drinking water supply over several decades.

What is the amount of compensation per individual for the Camp Lejeune contamination?

As the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit is still in its initial phases, determining the average settlement amount remains challenging. Legal analysts project that settlement amounts for Camp Lejeune water contamination cases could range from $10,000 to well over $1,000,000. The final sum depends on the strength of individual cases.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Camp Lejeune settlement?

The Lejeune Water Contamination Settlement applies to individuals who resided or worked at the US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The eligibility period is from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987. Eligibility requires a diagnosis of conditions such as breast cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In conclusion, these three instances shed light on the complex intersection of military operations, environmental hazards, and public health crises. From contaminated water supplies to chemical exposures and the aftermath of warfare, the health risks faced by military personnel extend far beyond the battlefield.

Addressing these issues requires proactive measures, including robust environmental monitoring, timely healthcare provision, and comprehensive support for affected individuals and communities.

As we reflect on these instances, it’s evident that safeguarding the health of those who serve demands ongoing vigilance. It also requires a commitment to accountability and justice.