The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
I spent time on Camp Lejeune from July 1977 to January 1979 and a short stay later in 1979 after being deployed. I was exposed to the water there. I did not, nor did anyone else, know the water was contaminated. I had some physical problems while there that could not be explained. Therefore, these were diagnosed as psychosomatic.
I still suffer from unexplained joint pain, which occurred at first for just a couple of days per month. Later, this pain became longer in duration and would last a week or more. This was all while I was still in the service. After the service, the frequency, intensity, and duration of the pain increased until it became a constant chronic pain that varied in intensity from mediocre to excruciating.
Over time, other symptoms have arisen. I get sore raised hard red spots. Very painful if I do not treat them with a topical medicine. I also now have breathing problems and severe chemical sensitivities, especially to perfumes, colognes, and scented items (i.e. deodorant, laundry soap, fabric softener, hair spray, soaps, shampoos, and hand sanitizers). The list is quite extensive.
I have become a virtual hermit due to not being able to go out in public often. Then, I have to try to time it so that I am not overly exposed to various chemicals while out and about. The chemicals do not necessarily need to have a smell; it’s just most often there is. Even my wife has to shower often after being out due to something she was exposed to, and it got on her. One of the biggest problems is how overwhelming many of the colognes/perfumes are today. The scent often lingers after the person wearing it has left. Some people even leave trails of it, thus making it very difficult for me to continue to be in most places very long.
I can’t work due to this crap because the pain interferes so much that I cannot work long enough hours to sustain a job. Then, of course, with the chemical sensitivity, I cannot work. It causes me to have difficulty breathing and I’d have to leave to come home to get a breathing treatment. I carry a rescue inhaler wherever I go, but that is only to help while I’m out. It does not allow me to stay in an environment where I’m exposed to something. I do not get to even enjoy my grandchildren’s birthdays or any other family outings, due to people not caring enough not to wear colognes or perfumes, let alone whatever they washed their clothes in. I always have to leave, if I go at all.
I take a low dose narcotic (prescribed) for pain, but that is only to take the edge off when it gets to be a higher pain. The pain never goes away; it only gets dull at times.
The doctors at the VA only treat the symptoms. They do not seem concerned as to why I have the problems and there is only so much they can do about it anyways. They classify it as fibromyalgia, but I think it is something more than that because this all didn’t happen like a classic fibro case. I have other symptoms as well, but I also now have a degenerative disc. So maybe it’s related, maybe it’s not.
All of this is due to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. This is about the best I can describe what I’ve been going through. The VA does not recognize any correlation with the contamination if it is not a cancer of some sort. Therefore, there is no recognition that contamination is causing my problems.
Note from the Editor: The author currently lives in Ohio. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.