Recently, more information has been surfacing regarding PFOS and PFAS exposure for some veterans, particularly those who served as firefighters.
PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonate) and PFAS (perfluoroctanoic acid) are synthetic, fluorinated compounds that have been widely used to make carpet, upholstery, clothing, and paper food packaging resistant to water, stains, or grease (like Scotchguard, Teflon, etc.). They are also used in significant amounts in firefighting foam.
Several military bases and their surrounding communities have documented increased exposure to these compounds due to firefighting foam contaminating the drinking water. In 2009, these compounds were added to an international list of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are substances that do not break down in the environment, are not metabolized in the body, and are capable of causing various health risks.
Wildlife studies in the US have found that PFOS exposure is associated with an increased risk of kidney disease in animals, and laboratory animal testing shows that PFOS and PFAS exposure can cause a variety of tumors and neonatal death. However, to date, no significant studies have been done to determine these compounds’ effects on humans.
Last year, several Senators pushed and got $7 million included in the 2018 budget to fund the study of long-term health effects in humans of exposure to PFOS and PFAS through drinking water.
Also currently before the Senate Armed Forces Committee is a bill to establish a PFAS Registry, similar to the Burn Pit registry. It is doubtful, however, that a registry will be created until more definitive research results are obtained.
Due to the lack of research and evidence connecting PFOS and PFAS exposure with certain disease and health conditions, the VA does not have a Presumptive List for exposure to these compounds. However, given the interest that has arisen and the fact that research is being funded, we strongly encourage you to thoroughly document any exposure you have had as well as any diseases or conditions that you feel have come about due to that exposure.
At this point in time, the VA is deciding claims on a case-by-case basis, and although most claims related to PFOS/PFAS exposure are currently denied, properly building and documenting your case now will ensure that you are prepared if any changes are made in the future based upon the results of the research.