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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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TOXIC EXPOSURE

After a brief absence (my apologies for not submitting an article on time last week), I am back with information regarding the PACT Act and Toxic Exposure. CVSOs have been re­ceiving questions about Toxic Exposure Risk Assessments (TERA), and we have questions ourselves. Institutions around the world are col­lecting data and conducting research on toxic exposures. Because of the PACT Act, VA is re­quired to collect, conduct, and report along with the rest of the world.

Section 102 of the PACT Act defines the term “toxic exposure”: In Section 101 of title 38, United States Code, as added by Section 102(b) and as an exposure to a substance, chemical or airborne hazard identified in the list under Section 1119(b)(2) of this title (Honoring our PACT Act) (38 USC 102). While the Honoring our PACT Act is specific to VA and the Veter­ans they serve, toxic exposure research and data spans across various Federal Government agen­cies, institutions, and organizations.

What is Toxic Exposure? There are several types of possible environmental exposures or hazards Veterans may have experienced during their military service:

Chemicals: Herbicides (Agent Orange) used during the Vietnam War era, burn pits, sulfur fire in Iraq, Camp Lejeune water supplies, pesticides used during the Gulf War, depleted uranium, and industrial solvents

Air Pollutants: Burn pits, oil well fire smoke during the Gulf War, sulfur fire smoke in Iraq, Atsugi (Japan) waste incinerator pollutants, sand, dust, and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5)

Occupational Hazards: Asbestos, industrial sol­vents, lead, radiation, vibration, noise, fuels, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and special paint used on military vehicles.

Radiation: Nuclear weapons and testing, x-rays, and depleted uranium.

Warfare Agents: Chemical weapons, Project 112/Project Shipboard Hazard, and Defense (SHAD), herbicide tests and storage, and chemical experiments.

As established by Sections 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, and 509 of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, the multi-agency federal working group is studying the following topics: Mortality of Vet­erans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War; Post 9/11 Veterans’ health trends; Vet­erans’ cancer rates; Effects of toxic exposure and mental health outcomes; Effects of waste related to the Manhattan Project; The state of access and barriers to benefits for Veterans in U.S. Territo­ries; and Effects of jet fuels.

If you believe your military service resulted in toxic exposure, then ask your VA primary care provider for a risk assessment. You may also want to discuss a disability compensation claim with your CVSO if you have a medical condi­tion that may have resulted from toxic exposure.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Veterans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen. christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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