The water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with benzene, industrial solvents and other harmful chemicals for as many as 60 years. Only some wells were contaminated in earlier years, with the worst contamination occurring between 1953 and 1987.
During these 35 years, it is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million people were exposed to this contaminated water, according to NBC News. Those who were exposed have shown increased rates of numerous diseases and a wide variety of cancer, including breast, lung, kidney, bladder and esophageal. Other conditions linked to this contamination include renal toxicity, miscarriages, female infertility and ALS. Marines and their family members that were affected by the contaminated water and suffer any of 15 different conditions are eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some of the worst cancer-causing chemicals in the water were benzene and trichloroethylene, which is a chemical degreaser. Reports show that some wells may have been contaminated with trichloroethylene between 1948 and 2008, while other wells may have been contaminated with benzene from 1951 until 2008. It is thought that the benzene came from fuel tank leaks, while the trichloroethylene was possibly from a dry cleaning plant.