Service members understand that exposure to certain dangerous conditions and hazards are a part of their job. They understand that they may serve overseas or in areas that could pose a significant risk to their health and wellbeing. However, few men and women serving in the military expect exposure to hazards at the military base on which they work and call home even if only temporary.
Exposure to drinking water contaminated with PFAS is now a problem for many veterans and service members, which is why PFAS chemical lawsuits are cropping up across the country.
What is PFAS?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. It is a synthetic chemical that is commonly used in the manufacture of various products, including carpet, adhesives, clothing, food packaging, and non-stick cookware. The chemical is also found in the firefighting foam used by firefighters. PFAS does not break down over time. Many people have varying levels of PFAS in their system from exposure to PFAS in their normal daily activities.
Drinking Water at Military Bases Contaminated with PFAS
The Department of Defense used the firefighting foam described above to combat fuel fires beginning in the 1970s. Service members used the firefighting foam to fight actual fires, but also used the foam in training exercises on military bases. The firefighting foam is now thought to be a source of PFAS contamination of the groundwater on many military bases.
Service members using the firefighting foam were exposed to PFAS, but all other personnel on the base were also exposed to PFAS because of the contaminated groundwater. Additionally, the groundwater of communities surrounding military bases could also contain PFAS.
An ongoing investigation by the Department of Defense has identified numerous military installations that have PFAS-contaminated water. Thousands of military personnel may have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated water, which can cause serious health concerns.
Health Issues and Illnesses Related to PFAS
Veterans and service members exposed to PFAS could experience health problems associated with PFAS. The EPA and Centers for Disease Control are still learning about how PFAS exposure can impact a person’s health. The likelihood that PFAS exposure may cause health problems depends on numerous factors, including the duration of the exposure, the level of contamination, and the frequency of the exposure.
Some studies suggest that exposure to PFAS could be a factor in developing certain health conditions including:
- Liver damage
- Increase in cholesterol
- Changes in child development and fetal development
- Immune system changes
- Increase in the risk of developing certain cancers, including kidney cancer and testicular cancer
- Issues with fertility
- Pregnancy-induced preeclampsia/hypertension
- Increase in the risk of thyroid disease
- Increase in the risk of asthma
The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs continue to claim that the medical and scientific evidence to support that exposure to PFAS could result in health concerns like those above is inconclusive.
Veterans and service members may request blood testing to determine their level of exposure to PFAS, but the VA denies the requests for most individuals. Unfortunately, service members and veterans deal with the health concerns caused by PFAS contaminated water while the VA continues to monitor the situation.
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