What Are Volatile Organic Compounds?

By WRSH on March 2, 2017 - Comments off

If you live in North Carolina or have served in the Marines or Navy, you’re probably familiar with the Camp Lejeune contaminated water scandal. If not, here’s a brief synopsis. In the early 1980s, it was discovered that the base’s water supply contained dangerously high levels of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. What’s worse is that it’s believed that Camp Lejeune’s water supply has been polluted with VOCs as far back as 1953. This means that around 750,000 servicemen, their families, and base workers may have had extensive exposure to these harmful chemicals. But what exactly are VOCs and why don’t we want them in our drinking or bathing water?

Volatile – Organic – Compounds

VOCs evaporate or vaporize easily, or at a low temperature, meaning they are “Volatile.” VOCs were once living things, meaning they contain carbon, which means they are “Organic.” VOCs are made up of more than one element, thus they are “Compounds.”

Many VOCs can be harmful to human health and the environment. They can be found in things like solvents, gasoline, glues, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks, dyes, refrigerants, and pesticides. The VOCs found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply were trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser; perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning solvent; benzene; and vinyl chloride. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer and other diseases, including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Female Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome
  • Scleroderma (Crest syndrome)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Hepatic Steatosis (fatty liver disease)
  • Neurobehavioral Effects

Depending on the concentration of toxic VOCs in a drinking water supply and length of exposure, the health effects can be slow and moderate or rapid and severe. Estimates gauge the levels of VOCs found in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water to be between 240 to 3400 times what is considered a safe level.

If you lived at or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, and have suffered an unexplained illness, you could be eligible to some of the $2.2 billion the government has allocated for compensation to victims of the contamination. But, the government has set some strict rules as to who is eligible for this compensation. For instance, you must have been present on the base a cumulative of 30 or more days. To find out if you have a viable claim, call the seasoned Camp Lejeune injury attorneys at the Manhattan offices of Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP who have been fighting for the rights of their clients for over 50 years. Call (212) 986-7353 for a free case evaluation.

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