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Trichloroethylene Exposure in the Military

Trichloroethylene Exposure in the Military

Military service can be hazardous in many ways, including proximity to dangerous chemicals. Many Veterans know about the risks and potential health complications associated with Agent Orange exposure, but others may have been exposed to other chemicals like trichloroethylene.

Trichloroethylene is one of the most dangerous chemicals that military personnel may have been exposed to during service. If you or a loved one believe you have developed a health condition because of trichloroethylene exposure, read on to learn more about acquiring disability benefits.

What Is Trichloroethylene?

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a colorless and nonflammable halocarbon substance that normally dissolves in fat, grease, wax, oil, and tar materials. Normally, TCE is utilized because it is one of the most important chlorinated solvents for dry-cleaning and degreasing purposes. Trichloroethylene was primarily used in degreasing metal equipment and household cleaning products.

Trichloroethylene was previously used as an inhaled analgesic and a surgical anesthetic before it was banned for these purposes by the FDA in 1977. Even today, you can find trichloroethylene used as a cleaning solvent by corporations and the military.

Studies show that exposure to trichloroethylene can lead to serious health consequences and long-term conditions. 

What Are the Effects of Trichloroethylene Exposure?

When acutely exposed to trichloroethylene, your body’s organs may be negatively affected, especially those related to digestion and breathing. 

Chronic exposure to trichloroethylene can lead to the development of severe health complications, including:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings like irritability and aggression
  • Facial numbness
  • Low breathing rate
  • Blue fingertips or lips
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inexplicable euphoria

In the long term — such as after repeated exposure to high concentrations of trichloroethylene — individuals may experience symptoms like muscle weakness, slurred speech, short-term memory loss, lack of coordination, and blurred vision.

Certain cancers have also been linked to chronic trichloroethylene exposure, including kidney, liver, and cervical cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Other potential conditions that may be caused or exacerbated by trichloroethylene possibly include:

  • Asthma, rhinitis, and chronic bronchitis
  • Lung cancer

Was There Potential Exposure To Trichloroethylene in the Military?

Unfortunately, many military Veterans may have been exposed to trichloroethylene in the short term or chronically. Service members have historically been exposed to TCE through to their daily tasks or even through living on base. 

TCE was used by the military extensively, eventually making its way into the soil and groundwater of certain military bases. Various military personnel in certain positions may have had a greater likelihood of trichloroethylene exposure, including:

  • Computer specialists
  • Radar technicians
  • System technicians
  • Corrosive control technicians
  • Jet engine mechanics
  • Weapon specialists
  • Communications equipment repairmen
  • Missile technicians
  • Aircraft structural mechanics
  • Avionics technicians

Were Veterans Exposed To Trichloroethylene at Camp Lejeune?

While any service member may have been exposed to trichloroethylene and developed health publications later on, those who served at Camp Lejeune are more likely to have suffered severe exposure. That’s because this location experienced a major case of water contamination.

Trichloroethylene and other chemicals like tetrachloroethylene or PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride, and more were all found in the drinking water at this US military base

Research and records indicate that the contamination was caused by improper disposal of cleaning chemicals used by the military camp and a dry-cleaning business nearby.

Over one million military service members and their family members were exposed to trichloroethylene and other carcinogens. As a result, Veterans who developed cancer because of trichloroethylene exposure at Camp Lejeune are qualified to seek disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Can You Receive VA Disability Benefits for Trichloroethylene Exposure?

At the time of this writing, the VA does provide disability benefits to any Veterans who can prove that they have a condition caused by their exposure to trichloroethylene (or were likely to have been exposed to TCE). 

This includes all Veterans, reservists, and guardsmen who developed various conditions during active duty. Veterans may qualify for monthly, tax-free payments in addition to medical care.

To know whether you qualify, consider whether you meet the below criteria:

  • You must have a diagnosed illness or other health condition that is caused or aggravated by exposure to a particular toxin in the water, soil, or air
  • You must have served on active duty in a location that more likely than not could have e exposed you to a toxic hazard (such as trichloroethylene at Camp Lejeune)
  • You must not have received a dishonorable discharge, as dishonorably discharged Veterans cannot take advantage of any Veterans benefits

What Are the Presumptive Conditions for Trichloroethylene Exposure?

Like Agent Orange, trichloroethylene is so toxic that it has inspired the creation of a presumptive conditions list. In essence, Veterans with any of these health conditions and who were exposed to trichloroethylene do not have to provide a nexus letter to the VA to qualify for benefits.

With the presumptive conditions list, all a Veteran has to do is prove to have a current diagnosis of one of the conditions on the list.

For example, if you have kidney cancer and served at Camp Lejeune, the VA will automatically assume that your kidney cancer developed because of trichloroethylene exposure, assuming the cancer began after your service.

The full list of presumptive conditions for trichloroethylene exposure includes:

  • Brain cancer
  • Head cancers
  • Gastrointestinal cancers
  • Glioblastoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphatic cancers and lymphoma of any type
  • Neck cancers
  • Melanoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Respiratory cancer
  • Reproductive cancers
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic rhinitis 
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Asthma diagnosed after service
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • ILD or interstitial lung disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pleuritis

How Can You Acquire Disability Benefits for Trichloroethylene Exposure in the Military?

If you believe you deserve disability benefits because you were exposed to trichloroethylene in the military, here’s the process you must follow.

First, you need to have evidence of a current physical or mental disability. If you already have a diagnosis from a licensed medical provider, that’s all you need. If you don’t already have a diagnosis, you need to have persistent symptoms that you can prove through a statement to the VA from yourself or other people in your life.

Second, you’ll need to gather substantiating evidence proving that you served in the location in question and were exposed to trichloroethylene. This usually involves gathering your service records and proving that you served at a US military base or location where trichloroethylene was used as a cleaning solvent or for other purposes. 

If you need to learn how to do this, you should contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys to help you.

The next step is to file Form 21-526ez. In this form, you’ll attach the evidence you have supplied and submit your benefits application to the VA. 

After that, all you need to do is wait. The VA will look through your claim and decide one way or the other whether you are entitled to benefits in a matter of weeks or months, depending on the current caseload. If your condition is not a presumptive condition, the VA may send you to an examination to determine the etiology, or origin, of your condition. 

What Happens If Your Claim Is Denied?

If your claim is denied, it could be for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • You didn’t provide any evidence of your current condition. Your symptoms must be persistent or on-going and, if you have a diagnosis, it must be current and ongoing, not a diagnosis from a few years ago.
  • You didn’t provide enough evidence of your stations in the military or that you were exposed to toxic chemicals while on active duty. The VA should have your service records, but you may have to tell the VA where you served and provide records.

In the event of a claim denial, don’t give up. You should contact Veterans law attorneys like Berry Law. The right law firm can help you through the appeals process and determine the best way to improve your next benefits claim. They can also answer any other questions you may have.

Contact Berry Law

Ultimately, you deserve disability benefits if you were exposed to trichloroethylene in the military and developed health complications later on. Berry Law’s educated, experienced attorneys can lead the charge to help you get the benefits you need to pay for your medical bills and cover any other financial obligations.

Our attorneys can help you gather evidence, file a successful claim, or navigate the appeals process. Whatever you need, we’re ready to help, so contact us today to learn more.

Sources:

Trichloroethylene – Cancer-Causing Substances – NCI | Cancer.gov

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Issues | Veterans Affairs

VA announces presumptive conditions for Camp Lejeune Veterans – Public Health | VA.gov

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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