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Toxic Exposure

There is a long history of toxic exposures in the military. For World War I and II, it was mustard gas. Ionizing Radiation was also a common toxic exposure for World War II veterans.  What many veterans are concerned about today are Agent Orange, Camp Lejeune Water Contamination, PFAS, Fort McClellan toxic exposure, PFAS, Burn Pits, and Gulf War Related exposures. 

Agent Orange originates from exposure during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was an herbicide mixture used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Much of it contained a dangerous chemical contaminant called dioxin. Millions of Americans and Vietnamese are still affected, directly and indirectly, by the wartime U.S. spraying of Agent Orange and other herbicides over southern and central Vietnam. While more than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the Vietnam War, it is estimated that 2.8 million veterans have been exposed to Agent Orange and later died.

There are stateside toxic exposures that have and have not yet been established for presumption conditions.  Currently, Camp Lejeune is the only location that has presumption conditions assigned, and those that qualify must have been on base no shorter than 30 days between August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987. Since many military families are impacted, they are eligible for health care reimbursement. 

PFAS and Fort McClellan are two of the most popular toxic exposure groups without established presumptive conditions for VA disability and care. PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are heat-resistant chemicals found in certain firefighting foams that can contaminate drinking water. The GAO and EWG have published multiple reports pertaining to this situation. The EWG has found that there are 708 military bases with known and suspected PFAS contamination. Fort McClellan has been an often overlooked situation that has yet to be properly addressed. It was used as the home of the U.S. Army Chemical Corp School, Army Combat Development Command.

Chemical/Biological/Radiological Agency, Army Military Police School, and Women's Army Corps. There is potential exposure from the hazardous materials stored there and also from the toxic waste from a nearby chemical plant, Monsanto, buried near a river whose watershed flows right into Fort McClellan’s training areas. This chemical company paid out for its mistakes to the town of Anniston, but the impacted veterans were left out because it was assumed that the government would pick up the slack. Sadly, victims of both toxic exposures are still fighting.

Burn Pits and Gulf War-related illnesses have gained popularity in the media, especially with the recent legislative advances from the passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act. Gulf War-related illnesses originate from the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. Most recently, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s genetic study confirmed that exposure to sarin nerve gas is a cause of Gulf War illnesses. Studies found that Gulf War-related illnesses are found in between 25% and 34% of Gulf War veterans. Burn Pits are often referred to as the Agent Orange of Post-9/11 veterans.  Burn pits were used during the Post-9/11 wars to dispose of all forms of trash, from human waste computers, and wood. In the most recent report from the Burn Pit Registry, 92.6% reported being around a burn pit in their deployment, and 58.9% reported tending to these burn pits. 

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