Many positions in the military carry occupational hazards that can health problems that persist, or even appear, decades after service. Every branch uses materials, tools, and equipment that most civilian workers will not come into contact with during their career. You might be surprised to know that even if a soldier never sees combat, there is a possibility that they’ve experienced one of the following occupational hazards:
Exposure to industrial solvents.
Service members that perform work that involves stripping paint, degreasing, or cleaning may be exposed to dangerous industrial solvents. The danger these substances pose varies on the frequency of exposure, length of exposure, and how you are exposed (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact) but the effects can range from drowsiness to chemical burns. When working with these materials, always practice extreme caution and wear the proper protective gear.
Many veterans were exposed to asbestos during their service. Veterans have a higher rate of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases than any other sector of the US population, making up 30% of mesothelioma cases in the country. If you served in the military, especially the Navy or Coast Guard, and were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease caused by asbestos exposure during active duty, you should probably get in touch with an attorney, as you and your family are probably owed compensation.
Exposure to loud noises. Repeated exposure to sounds like gunfire, machinery, aircraft, and explosions can cause tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears), diminish your hearing, and even lead to loss of hearing altogether.
Lead exposure. While lead use has decreased over the past few decades, lowering the risk of exposure, it’s still a hazard. Members of the military may have been exposed to lead via indoor firing ranges, lead paint, or water from old lead pipes. The health risks associated with lead exposure include weakness in the extremities, anemia, permanent brain and kidney damage, and even miscarriage. If you were exposed to lead, or think that you might have been, don’t ignore any symptoms that may arise.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs are caused by a jolt or blow to the head and veterans deployed to a combat zone are at a higher risk for this type of injury. In fact, it has been called the “signature wound” of soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effects of a TBI can last a lifetime and include cognitive issues, memory loss, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) If you experienced a head injury and begin experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, seek help immediately.
If you or someone you know is a veteran experiencing health problems due to active duty service, you don’t have to suffer. Help is available. The VA provides disability benefits to injured veterans and an attorney can look over your case to determine whether you are eligible. If so, they’re there to help ensure that you get the benefits you’re entitled to. Get started by finding an Environmental Health Coordinator through the VA or by contacting a personal injury attorney to help you navigate the legal system.