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Camp Lejeune veterans, more prone to developing aplastic anemia

As a rare but serious blood condition occurring when the bone marrow cannot produce enough new blood cells for the body to work properly, aplastic anemia is caused by the immune system attacking the stem cells in the marrow. People who undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy are more susceptible to developing this condition.

However, so are Camp Lejeune veterans, as aplastic anemia can also be the result of exposure to benzene, which was present in the drinking water at the military base during the last century. In fact, roughly 1 in 100 veterans exposed to high levels of benzene will develop aplastic anemia.

The link between benzene exposure and bone marrow suppression has been recognized since 1897. Aplastic anemia can develop suddenly or over the years, depending on how gradual benzene exposure occurs. Benzene was found in a well close to the Hadnot Point fuel farm at Camp Lejeune at a level of 380 parts per billion, which greatly exceeds the safe exposure limit. Leakage and spills from underground fuel storage tanks have been the main sources of benzene exposure at the military installation, although the chemical was also lurking in the drinking water.

According to a study from the European Journal of Haematology, exposure to benzene harms the bone marrow through these mechanisms, eventually causing aplastic anemia:

  • metabolism of benzene in the liver
  • transport of metabolites to the bone marrow and their secondary activation to free radicals
  • induction of DNA damage, apoptosis, and altered differentiation in early progenitor cells
  • depletion of the stem cell pool

Since aplastic anemia can ultimately result in leukemia or myelodysplasia, it is generally treated by doctors specializing in cancer. Some of the other products containing benzene that might have been used at Camp Lejeune are solvents, paint thinners, lubricants, degreasers, gasoline, and polishes. So, benzene exposure among service members took place via inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption, which only worsens the degree of exposure and increases veterans' risk of developing aplastic anemia. While the condition is not categorized as a cancer, it can be just as serious.

Aplastic anemia, a life-threatening condition affecting Camp Lejeune veterans

Even though aplastic anemia is a life-threatening condition with very high death rates, specifically about 70% within one year if left untreated, the overall five-year survival rate is approximately 80% for people under the age of 20. A sliver of hope is that, in recent years, the long-term outcomes of aplastic anemia patients have been continuously improving. Some of the health complications of this condition are severe infections with bacteria or fungus. Other problems can arise from bleeding risk and anemia, including heart failure.

If you are a Camp Lejeune veteran or a family member of one who lived at the military base and believe you might have aplastic anemia, these are the symptoms you should pay attention to and for which you should seek medical attention as soon as possible:

  • frequent infections
  • nosebleeds or bleeding gums
  • unusually pale skin
  • fatigue or tiredness
  • unexplained or easy bruising
  • shortness of breath when exercising
  • red or purple spots on the skin
  • fast or irregular heartbeat

In the long run, aplastic anemia can lead to fibrosis, the irreversible replacement of the bone marrow. Are you a Camp Lejeune veteran or a family member of one who drank toxic water at the military base and now struggle with aplastic anemia? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us, as our team of professionals is ready to help you determine whether you are eligible to file a claim and obtain the financial compensation you are entitled to. Since we are well aware that suffering from this condition can be extremely overwhelming, we will go to great lengths to simplify the process of evaluating your case for you.

File your Camp Lejeune aplastic anemia claim with our expert assistance

With over 35 years of experience in assessing toxic exposure claims, Atraxia Law is here to offer you the assistance you need in filing your Camp Lejeune water contamination claim if you have aplastic anemia. The only documents we will request are your military records or proof of your stay at the military base and your medical records. Eligible individuals will promptly be directed to a reputable attorney to have their claims filed.