A silent enemy is invading and poisoning U.S. troops of all ages, ranks, and backgrounds. Troops who fought a number of challenges during perilous deployment to come home safely – or so they thought. Vets have been exposed to toxins at military bases. And toxic exposure is a war wound that starts out largely invisible but eventually begins to take over the body.
Silent no more: Veterans Exposed to Toxins at Military Bases Tell Their Stories
Some medical experts acknowledge that it’s exceedingly difficult to draw a definitive link between exposure to harmful chemicals with carcinogenic and neurotoxic risks and the conditions veterans are reporting, but they note that ample evidence already exists showing that long-term exposure to them can lead to serious health issues.
Many servicemen were unaware of the risks posed by exposure to toxic chemicals until after their military service. Some of them heard about fellow servicemen who developed persistent health concerns due to deployment exposures and suspected they too would eventually develop it.
Diagnosed With a Neurologic Disorder Caused by Exposure to Neurotoxins – Robert’s Story
In May 2017, at age 55, I was experiencing intermittent bouts of double vision. I didn’t think anything of it. Then the headaches started. It kept getting worse. I didn’t want to go to the hospital for a headache, but finally, my wife made me. She took me to the nearby hospital where several tests were performed. At the time I really wasn’t scared. I guess I didn’t realize how serious it was. I didn’t put two and two together. Until one day when I was on social media. Someone was talking about Fort Riley receiving a Superfund status for cleanup from the government. Toxins at military bases.
So I checked into it and found out that the drinking water at this military installation exceeded the EPA’s health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA. The active ingredients found in the firefighting foam used by the military since the 1970s for training exercises and to extinguish dangerous fuel fires. Finally made sense. Most likely, my condition is linked to exposure to these chemicals while stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas.
The healthy function of the nervous system is governed by a wide range of physiological factors. Some chemicals can produce neurotoxic effects by interfering with these processes, as my doctors explained. Now, I am completely healed. My only side effect is an occasional stutter and I’m confused when I am tired. I have an amazing wife, who advocated for me. Without her, I truly believe I would not have survived.
Robert had never taken a sick day in his two decades of military service, his wife said.
But he was brought low by what doctors thought was encephalitis. Then PTSD. Then a brain tumor. The normally mild-mannered soldier, husband, and father, was outraged. He pounded the table with his fists and all but ordered doctors to find out what was wrong with him. After a few months, Robert finally got one correct diagnosis: a neurologic disorder caused by exposure to neurotoxins. The poisons that penetrated his body while deployed more than likely caused brain damage that took his vitality, his wife said doctors told her.
Unfortunately, the widespread chemical contamination of our military installations and surrounding communities by a family of manmade, toxic chemicals known as PFAS, is a scary reality. This contamination has plagued our service members, veterans, and even their families and communities all over the country.
This Is Not Just the Story of One Individual, or Ten, or Fifty
This is the story of hundreds of veterans and enlisted men and women who were molded by disaster into a single cohesive force determined to accomplish one mission: Serve our country. The diagnosis placed Robert among a growing number of military veterans who say they have developed serious and sometimes fatal diseases. After facing prolonged exposure to neurotoxic organic solvents such as toluene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, and trichloroethylene, heavy metals such as lead, manganese, and mercury, and perfluoroalkylated compounds, arising from military-affiliated operations and industrial sources.
Veterans who have found themselves exposed to toxic chemicals during military service currently face an uphill battle. However, they are not without support. Resources for treating service-related conditions, acclimating to civilian life, and staying healthy are available to them. Veterans who may have been impacted by these exposures should use these earned benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides many of these resources.
About the author:
Jonathan Sharp is the CFO and Director of Claims at the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., a law firm that handles cases of toxic exposure resulting from an occupational workplace in an industrial setting or served in the military.