Birth defects due to toxic exposure on military bases

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on August 04th, 2020

Chronic exposure to industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, an increased risk of childhood leukemia, and a greater incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida found a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Environmental toxins are seen as posing risks during pregnancy. Pregnant women who resided at military facilities may have come in contact with hazardous contaminants and by doing so inadvertently exposed their fetuses. According to epidemiological studies, babies born to mothers exposed to toxic chemicals while pregnant are four times more likely to have serious birth defects and congenital anomalies than babies born to mothers who lived off-base.

Pregnant women who have lived at a military base together with their husbands or by themselves may have been exposed to:

  • benzene - a volatile organic compound
  • trichloroethylene (TCE) - a metal degreaser
  • perchloroethylene (PCE) - a dry cleaning agent
  • heavy metals (e.g. mercury, lead, cadmium, manganese)

The cancer-causing potential of PCE has been established through numerous epidemiological studies and conclusive evidence that have contributed to PCE's designation as a "probable human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) and "likely to be carcinogenic in humans" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals increases the risk of serious birth defects

A combination of environmental and genetic factors can increase the risk of certain congenital disorders, which can be defined as structural or functional anomalies that occur during intrauterine life. Their impact on a child's health and development can vary from mild to severe. Some congenital disorders may be clinically obvious at birth, while others may only be detected later in life. For example, a neural tube defect is a congenital defect that is obvious at birth while a heart defect, which is also present at birth, can go undiagnosed until patients are in their 20s or 30s.

According to the Center for Disease Control, birth defects are the leading cause of infant death in the United States, resulting in 20% of all infant deaths, many of which are from exposure to teratogens during pregnancy. Teratogens are substances or other factors that can cause congenital abnormalities, via a toxic effect on an embryo or fetus. Women who were exposed to various contaminants at targeted military bases need to better understand the association between their exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, the following effects were seen in births of women exposed to dangerous chemicals on military bases:

  • prenatal exposure to solvents including tetrachloroethylene (PCE) may increase the risk of low birth weight, central nervous system defects, cardiac defects, oral cleft defects (e.g., cleft lip and cleft palate);
  • exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) in the womb was associated with small for gestational age (SGA), term low birth weight (TLBW), and reduced mean birth weight (MBW);
  • mercury exposure during fetal development was associated with low birth weight and a greater incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida - a type of birth defect of the brain, spine, or spinal cord.

Our lawyers are here to assist parents of children with birth defects due to military bases contamination

By law, the VA provides reimbursement for out-of-pocket healthcare costs for veterans' family members, including children born to mothers exposed to harmful chemicals present on military bases. Eligible family members receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred from the treatment of qualifying health conditions, including birth defects.

If you are the wife of a veteran who was stationed at one of the following military bases with him while you were pregnant or if you were a pregnant member of the military yourself and gave birth to a child with a birth defect, you are entitled to financial compensation, which our team of experts can help you recover:

We believe that those who have been put in harm's way by the negligence of another are entitled to justice. With over 20 years of handling toxic exposure cases, you can trust our team of experts to fight for the compensation you deserve.