Chemical toxic exposure at US military bases
Many active service members and their families were commissioned by the military to live on military bases where common practices allowed for the dumping of oil, industrial wastewater, and potentially radioactive toxic chemicals into storm drains.
Once an individual has been exposed to a toxic chemical, it can impact virtually every system in the body, resulting in both short-term and chronic health consequences. The most common route by which a chemical may enter the body is through inhalation; other pathways are by means of ingestion and directly through the skin.
At many military bases & installations owned and/or used by the United States Armed Forces, the contamination is so severe that they have been designated Superfund sites by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meaning that they are among the most hazardous areas in the country that need immediate and intense cleanup.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are over 600 military sites that are Superfund sites. The hazardous chemicals in which the EPA considers for superfund sites include:
- per-and polyfluorinated substances
- carbon tetrachloride
- trichloroethylene (TCE)
- perchloroethylene (PCE)
- 1,1- dichloroethane
- 1,2- dichloroethane
- methylene chloride
- polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- vinyl chloride
- halogenated hydrocarbons
The toxicity of these substances is undeniable, and their persistence and accumulation within the body should be cause for significant concern. These chemicals also accumulate and persist in our environment, with the ability for long-range transport far from the emission points.
Military bases and installations that have records of toxic exposure issues
Many toxic substances such as chlorinated solvents, industrial chemicals, petroleum hydrocarbons, and metals are present in the soil at disused military bases and installations at levels that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s health guidelines. The natural and man-made substances that are found on Superfund sites are designated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) as the following:
- cause serious, irreversible, or incapacitating illnesses in exposed individuals;
- pose a threat to the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of.
There are numerous active, closed, and formerly used military installations across the country that are listed as Superfund sites
Each Superfund site varies in the type and the level of contaminants found, so potential health effects could vary depending on the base when you were stationed there, and the length of time spent on the base.
The U.S. EPA’s Superfund website provides a search feature to find Superfund sites near you if you are a veteran exposed to dangerous or toxic chemicals while serving in the military.
Diseases and health issues which may be related to exposure to hazardous chemicals at military bases
Exposure to toxic chemicals can produce immediate effects that include headaches, rashes, allergies, nausea, dizziness, neurological problems, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and concentration and memory problems.
Generally, these effects develop gradually, resulting in serious health complications over time.
If you developed any type of cancer while you were stationed on one of these contaminated military bases/installations for 1 year or longer you will qualify to receive a claim.
Types of cancers which may be related to toxic exposure on military bases:
Other health conditions which may be related to toxic exposure on military bases:
Suffering from a disabling condition does not automatically qualify a former service member to receive certain VA disability benefits. In order to establish a service connection on a direct basis, veterans must show evidence of deployment to a place that had documented chemical issues or showing permanent or temporary duty at a military facility that has been placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Site list.
If you have one of the conditions listed above and believe that a preexisting condition was aggravated by exposure to these chemicals, or suspect that you have a secondary condition caused by the contamination, please contact us today for a no-cost case review.
Toxic exposure presumptive conditions
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances while serving on active duty.
In some instances, the VA presumes that certain conditions began in service or were connected with exposure to toxic agents while on active duty service.
These conditions are codified by the VA regulation and allow for what is called “presumptive service connection.” The VA Presumptive List basically states that if veterans who served in X location/circumstances during certain years developed Y or Z conditions, then those conditions will be automatically considered service-connected. Examples of diseases subject to presumptive service connection include veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, for a minimum of 30 days. The eight presumptive conditions for disability compensation for Camp Lejeune veterans are:
The VA has decided that service-connected compensation should be awarded for a number of diseases that appear after service for all veterans that meet certain conditions of service, even if there is no record of an event or disability in their particular military service records.
The rate of misdiagnosis is very high among the victims of toxic exposure
According to estimates from the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, exposure to both manufactured chemicals and natural toxins is responsible for between 7% and 19% of human cancers.
If your doctor suspects you might have a malignant disease, he or she will ask you about any symptoms you are having, such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, pain, numbness, or weakness, and how long you have had them. You might also be asked about possible risk factors, including exposure to hazardous chemicals.
In order to give your claim the best chance at success, there are certain requirements that must be met, including being able to prove that exposure to toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials during military service has caused your disease or condition to develop. Anyone with a history of chemical exposure during military service should take special note of the symptoms and immediately seek medical attention. An accurate and early diagnosis can increase the chances for successful treatment but also gives you the right to be entitled to compensation.
Updates & timeline for military bases contaminated with PFAS
Mark Favors, a nurse and activist who is originally from Colorado Springs, has seen many family members, including his grandmother, pass away from cancer. He believes her disease was caused by PFAS exposure from the nearby Peterson Air Force Base. Nevertheless, since trying to hold the Department of Defense accountable can be formidable due to a myriad of legal limitations, the man could not obtain justice in his case.
Some of the Favors' living relatives have signed on to multidistrict litigation against the companies that produced PFAS. However, he said that the legal difficulties associated with challenging the military in court and the very small changes doing so could result in have deterred him from suing the Department of Defense. "Say you could file a lawsuit - what could we really get that would prevent this from happening? I think it's so complex of an issue," Favors said. "To me, especially my grandma, there's really no financial amount that could compensate me for this, so I just don't see how it would be that beneficial," he added.
Nonetheless, Favors is frustrated that there is no method available to hold the Department of Defense responsible, stressing that "we need congressional accountability."
In the middle of September 2021, the Department of Defense sent letters to 2,063 agricultural operations within a mile of 95 military bases concerning PFAS contamination in the area they were living in. The average military installation sent 21 notices, and half of the bases sent 7 or fewer. In April 2021, the Environmental Working Group reported that PFAS were confirmed or suspected at 678 military installations.
Pentagon documents showed that at least 385 military installations across the U.S. are contaminated with PFAS, mostly from AFFF used by firefighters and during training exercises. Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment and energy resilience, said during a July public discussion on PFAS that it would take "years to fully define cleanup requirements the department faces, and probably decades before that cleanup is complete." The cleanup costs were estimated at $2 billion.
On July 14, 2021, the Department of Defense held a public outreach event detailing the roles and responsibilities, funding process, and actions taken as part of its cleanup endeavors regarding PFAS contamination of communities living near military installations. The presentation also detailed the future goals of the Department of Defense concerning public health outcomes, such as minimizing the future use of AFFF, monitoring the health of firefighters who have been exposed to PFAS, and expanding PFAS-related public outreach.
New Jersey sued the federal government, accusing it of contaminating the environment with PFAS on and around 3 military bases in the state by continuing to use AFFF. PFAS have polluted the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and at two other bases at Trenton and Earle at levels that significantly exceed New Jersey's safe limit for human exposure. The federal government waived sovereign immunity by agreeing to follow the state's standards for the safe levels of PFAS but has "not addressed the imminent and substantial endangerment to the human health of New Jersey's residents."
The harmful fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS were confirmed or suspected at 678 military installations in America at the beginning of April 2020.
In February 2021, the EPA deemed over 130 U.S. military installations Superfund sites. In addition to PFAS, there were other hazardous contaminants lurking on these military bases, such as cyanide, pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, acids, chelating agents, asbestos, creosote, lead, thallium, antimony, and chromium.
The Environmental Working Group compiled a top 100 list of the most contaminated military installations with PFAS in the U.S. At 13 sites in California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, the PFAS contamination level was over 1 million ppt, when the safe limit is just 70 ppt. The military base with the highest PFAS detection was England Air Force Base in Louisiana, where there were roughly 20.7 million ppt PFAS.
The Department of Defense has begun battling environmental regulators in multiple states after the agencies tried to force the military to clean PFAS from military installations and sites. These endeavors mark the opening acts of what might turn into a nationwide war on legal liabilities, which the Pentagon estimated could reach billions of dollars.
Few manufacturers of PFAS face potential liabilities as great as the U.S. military, which has already spent over $200 million recently to start investigations of PFOS and PFOA at more than 400 military bases across the country. While there are a lot of chemicals in the PFAS group, PFOS and PFOA are believed to be among the most dangerous.
The primary U.S. manufacturers voluntarily ceased the production of PFOS and PFOA in 2015. Furthermore, the Department of Defense updated the Military Specification for AFFF so that new supplies available for emergency firefighting responses would not contain detectable levels of PFOS or PFOA.
Nevertheless, AFFF is still used by the Department of Defense, but only to respond to emergency situations, and treats each use of AFFF as a spill to minimize the harmful environmental effects of PFAS. Fortunately, AFFF is no longer used for maintenance, testing, or training on military installations worldwide.
By 2001, PFOS and, in some formulations, PFOA became important ingredients in AFFF. The manufacturers of AFFF in the U.S. would sometimes use other PFAS than PFOS, but the existing stocks of PFOS-containing AFFF remained in use.
In the 1970s, every military installation in America was required to use AFFF as a firefighting agent to extinguish chemical fires or spills. However, AFFF was also employed during crash crew training exercises, hanger system operations and testing, and other emergency response actions. The Department of Defense would also use materials with PFAS in the vapor suppression systems at plating shops.
The formula of aqueous film-forming foam – AFFF, for short – was developed by the U.S. Navy together with the 3M company in 1966. Soon, all military vessels were required to carry AFFF to be used to extinguish a potential jet fuel or petroleum fire. AFFF is designed to put out Class B fires, which stem from flammable liquids or gases, such as petroleum greases, tars, oils, certain paints, solvents, and lacquers.
We work tirelessly to ensure victims of toxic exposure on military bases are compensated fairly
At Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., we can help you move forward in the process to recover compensation in your toxic chemical exposure claim. Some of the recoverable damages you may be entitled to include medical expenses, lost income and wages, pain and suffering, and loss of life.
Environmental Litigation Group has the benefit of a wealth of knowledge and experience with all types of environmental toxic tort cases. Our legal experts can review your medical and service records and determine if the military installations you were assigned to have been impacted by toxic contamination during your enrollment period, and if any conditions you are diagnosed with are related. It is important to know that, to file a claim for toxic exposure on military bases, you will have to retrieve your military records if you are a veteran. This will speed up the legal process for our attorneys and you will obtain compensation within a shorter time. Family members of personnel stationed at one of these contaminated military bases can also have opportunities for benefits and treatments.
In order for any VA disability claim to be successful, veterans who were exposed to toxic substances while serving on active duty must provide evidence of:
- a diagnosed medical condition by a healthcare provider
- supporting evidence of in-service toxic exposure that could have caused that condition
To make a successful claim, you’ll also need documents that must show a period of active-duty service. Our law firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not have to pay anything unless we recover compensation for you.
Too often, the VA gives disability ratings that fall short or denies a claim completely. If you are interested in avoiding unnecessary delays in your claim and want to do everything you can to maximize your chances of success, it is a good idea for you to consult with an experienced legal team. Our team of experts can help you gather the documents you need to appeal for a higher disability rating and receive compensation that’s fair.