Toxic exposure and linkable diseases in U.S. veterans

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 10th, 2020

During the last century, millions of veterans were exposed to toxic substances on military bases, which is why many now struggle with serious, life-threatening diseases, including cancer. Some of the harmful agents lurking on military bases were dioxins, PFAS, industrial solvents, Agent Orange, benzene, and heavy metals.

Over 700 military bases nationwide have a grim legacy of toxic exposure, most of which are contaminated with PFAS, a group of highly toxic chemicals. Exposure to these substances, also known as "forever chemicals" due to their ability to persist in the environment and the body, can result in dozens of serious health problems, including several cancers. Nevertheless, there were many other toxic chemicals lurking on military bases during the last century, including:

  • benzene
  • 2-butanone
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • trichloroethylene
  • perchloroethylene
  • chlordane
  • 1,1- dichloroethane
  • 1,2- dichloroethane
  • methylene chloride
  • polychlorinated biphenyls
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • tetrachloroethylene
  • toluene
  • trichloroethylene
  • vinyl chloride
  • halogenated hydrocarbons
  • trihalomethanes
  • xylene

Usually, service members would be exposed to a concoction of harmful chemicals, depending on their military duties. Because these substances were highly prevalent in the environment, nearly everyone who spent time at military bases during the last century now has a history of toxic exposure, of which they should inform their physician, as their risk of developing a related disease is high. Over 43,000 veterans receive a cancer diagnosis every year across the country.

PFOA exposure increases the risk of kidney cancer by 16% in veterans

The chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA for short, is one of the numerous substances from the PFAS group. It is also one of the most dangerous chemicals out of the "forever chemicals" class. According to a study from the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, the average relative increase in cancer risk per 10 ng/mL increase in serum PFOA is 16% for kidney cancer and 3% for testicular cancer. Higher kidney cancer incidence and mortality have been seen among people with high PFOA exposures, including veterans who lived at contaminated military bases. Furthermore, the development of various kidney diseases is associated with PFOA exposure, which increases the risk of kidney cancer.

Unfortunately, exposure to these chemicals does not cause only kidney and testicular cancer, as the following diseases are also associated with it:

Researchers found that higher blood concentrations of PFOS, another highly dangerous chemical from this group, were associated with a significantly increased risk of developing testicular cancer. A recent study from Environmental Health Perspectives shows a direct association between PFOS found in the blood of thousands of military personnel and testicular cancer. Using blood drawn from Air Force servicemen, the researchers found strong evidence that airmen who were firefighters had elevated concentrations of PFAS in their bloodstreams. The airmen with testicular cancer had higher serum levels of PFOS than those who had not been diagnosed with cancer.

The causal relation between exposure to Agent Orange and lung cancer

As an herbicide and defoliant chemical, Agent Orange was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War as part of Operation Ranch Hand, which was a chemical warfare program. It is estimated that over 4 million people were exposed to Agent Orange, and 3 million of these individuals came to struggle with terrible diseases such as leukemia, prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease, and lung cancer as a result of exposure.

According to a 1994 report by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, there is a strong connection between exposure to Agent Orange and the development of lung cancer and other respiratory malignant diseases. Because the herbicide contains dioxin, a toxic agent, exposure to Agent Orange, which occurs when a person inhales the substance, can lead to lung cancer, as well as bronchial cancer, esophageal cancer, and throat cancer. Dioxins are a group of chemicals that are persistent environmental pollutants, which means that once they are released, they remain in the water, soil, and air forever, thereby endangering the health of everyone who is in close proximity for a long period of time.

There are other diseases in addition to lung cancer exposure to Agent Orange can cause, for which veterans can seek VA benefits, namely:

  • esophageal cancer
  • throat cancer
  • bronchial cancer
  • leukemia
  • amyloidosis
  • lymphoma
  • Parkinson's disease
  • diabetes mellitus type 2
  • ischemic heart disease
  • prostate cancer
  • soft tissue sarcoma
  • multiple myeloma
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • bladder cancer
  • chloracne
  • hypothyroidism
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

If a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War, which was the case for the majority of veterans, their chances of developing a terrible disease increase tremendously. Still, it is important to know that if you are a veteran with a history of exposure to Agent Orange and suffer from a related disease, you immediately qualify for compensation from the VA.

Two years of heavy exposure to trichloroethylene may increase Parkinson's disease risk by 70%

Trichloroethylene was one of the industrial solvents lurking in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. It was found in the Hadnot Point water system in a concentration exceeding the safe exposure limit by a whopping 280 times. A new study from JAMA Neurology compared Parkinson's diagnoses in 160,000 Navy and Marine veterans. Over half came from Camp Lejeune, where trichloroethylene was used to degrease military equipment and was present in the drinking water, while the remainder came from Camp Pendleton, where the water was not contaminated. The researchers found that 430 veterans had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and that the Camp Lejeune veterans' risk was 70% higher than the Pendleton veterans.

In addition to Parkinson's disease, trichloroethylene exposure is also responsible for these diseases and health issues, particularly in Camp Lejeune veterans and family members:

Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, veterans and family members can now seek financial compensation from the government if they came to struggle with a disease related to having drunk contaminated water at the military base during the last century. Former Marines can also file a VA claim for disability compensation, a process with which our diligent attorneys can help.

Our skilled attorneys can help you file a military base toxic exposure claim for your disease

With over 30 years of experience in pursuing financial compensation for toxic exposure victims, including numerous veterans, our attorneys are ready to offer you quality legal assistance if you spent time at Camp Lejeune or another contaminated military base and now suffer from a disease. Because we understand how overwhelming struggling with a serious illness can be, we will go to great lengths to simplify the legal process for you. Veterans who intend to file a claim will only have to provide our legal team with their military records, which they must retrieve, and their medical records.

Family members who are seeking compensation will need to send in evidence of their stay at the military base along with their medical records with their diagnosis. After a careful and thorough evaluation of your case, we will determine whether you are eligible to file a military base toxic exposure claim or a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim. If you are, we will do our best to obtain the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your unjust suffering. We operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not have to pay us anything unless we recover money for you.