Cervical cancer due to toxic exposure on military bases

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on August 14th, 2020

Chlorinated solvents, such as perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE), are among the most common contaminants in the US due to their widespread use as degreasing agents in military and industrial applications. Either inhaling or ingesting large amounts of PCE causes cancer of the cervix, studies say.

For decades, military personnel and their family members who were stationed at military bases across the nation were unavoidably exposed to harmful substances that can lead to serious diseases over time, including cervical cancer.

Most hazardous contaminants found at current and former U.S. military bases include:

  • Perchloroethylene (PCE) - a highly versatile solvent used in drycleaning operations
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) - a metal degreaser
  • Benzene - an organic chemical compound that is a natural component of crude oil
  • Trans-1,2-dichloroethylene - a breakdown of PCE and TCE into a different contaminant
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - identified as being used in aqueous film-forming foam

For women, long-term exposure to certain chemicals that contained high toxicity levels can potentially lead to more gender-specific problems such as cancers of the uterus, breast, and cervix - which is part of the female reproductive system.

Adverse health effects depend on the exposure factors, such as the type of chemical, the amount or level of a chemical a person was exposed to, the frequency of exposure, and the duration of exposure.

Modalities of exposure to the health-hazardous contaminants present at military bases & installations

Inhalation

  • daily shower or bath
  • movement of vapors through floors, walls of contaminated buildings
  • volatile chemicals are released into the atmosphere from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas

Ingestion

  • Food - Food contamination can occur if the food has come into contact with hazardous chemicals; it can also occur further down the food chain by eating contaminated fish.

Skin

  • Contact with volatile organic compounds like perchloroethylene through handling, dry-cleaned clothing

In utero

  • The vast majority of contaminants identified at certain military bases have the ability to cross the placenta through the umbilical cord and enter the baby's bloodstream

Breast milk

  • A mother's exposure to toxic agents may also cause contamination of her breast milk

Exposure to chemicals known as PCE - a causal factor for cervical cancer

A mounting body of evidence indicates that exposure to environmental chemicals may contribute to the development and progression of certain forms of cancer. Gynecological cancers, for example, maybe related to certain chlorinated solvents, including chlorinated volatile organic compounds such as perchloroethylene (PCE).

The main key to preventing cancer is to limit the number of harmful toxins that enter the body. Some of the common organic pollutants that have been noted to be of special concern come from naturally occurring deposits and the spillage of liquid wastes.

Previous epidemiological studies of adult exposure to PCE - a volatile compound introduced into the environment by human activity have found evidence of increased risks for cervical cancer. PCE's potential to cause cancer has been established through sufficient epidemiologic studies that have contributed to its designation as "likely to be carcinogenic in humans by all routes of exposure" by the International Agency for Cancer Research.

Cervical cancer develops when abnormal cells in the cervix lining grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner. These cells can also invade nearby tissue or spread throughout the body. This cancer is very slow to progress and may take years for symptoms to be fully evident.

Give us a call if you have qualifying service at a contaminated military base and cervical cancer

Wives of military personnel and women with qualifying service at one of the targeted military bases and a current cervical cancer diagnosis may be eligible for VA health and compensation benefits if they have medical evidence showing a link between their current illness and exposure to hazardous contaminants.

If you would like to discuss your specific situation with a lawyer whom you can trust, do not hesitate to contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., as soon as possible. We are available to help you investigate your options and advocate for you to the fullest extent of the law.