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Department of Defense’s Delayed Response to Toxic Chemical Exposure

Sunday, August 15, 2021
Department of Defense’s Delayed Response to Toxic Chemical Exposure

The Department of Defense has been aware of the risks of PFAS for decades, including their tendency to build up in the body over time.

In 2011, the Department of Defense’s Emerging Chemical program released a report that detailed the risks of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These substances are known as PFAS, and they are found in aqueous film-forming foam that was used most commonly to fight vehicle and aircraft fires.

Immediately following this illuminating report, no actions were taken to address the issues. This was mainly because the report was not endorsed by the Pentagon’s Emerging Chemicals of Concern Governance Council. In actuality, the program released a report that included no instruction to allow them to do anything about it.

As a result, the Department of Defense was not required to plan, program, or budget for any actions that would respond to the 2011 risk alert. The Emerging Chemical program did not require proactive risk management for PFAS until 2016. These new insights come from an evaluation released by the Inspector General in early 2020, as dozens of lawmakers had requested a review two years prior.

It’s clear that the Department of Defense has been aware of the risks of PFAS for decades, including their tendency to build up in the body over time.

While PFAS were most notably used in firefighting activities, tests revealed that they were also present in drinking water. This is likely because PFAS were used in training for much of the 20th century, which caused groundwater contamination.

“This Inspector General’s report confirms that the Defense Department must urgently do more to protect service members and their families from PFAS chemicals,” Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, said in a Tuesday release from the Environmental Working Group. “Due to the Defense Department’s use of firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals, many service members, military firefighters, and their families are still at risk of exposure.”

For the first time, annual blood testing is required for DoD firefighting personal to monitor the levels of PFAS in their systems. This practice started in the fall of 2020.

The report also sheds light on how the Department of Defense’s focus in dealing with PFAS was misguided as they were only focused on firefighting foam. As a result, many of the other sources of PFAS exposure were overlooked. Furthermore, despite the focus on firefighting foam, there is still not a good candidate for a replacement. The Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Environment and Energy Resilience said that this is because governing rules of science and technology hamper them.

The Inspector General’s report has recommended writing down the Emerging Chemical Program requirements to begin risk management measures.

Are you suffering from an illness that could be related to PFAS exposure during your service? Speak to a seasoned veterans disability lawyer at our firm.  Call us at 855-208-7783 or complete an online intake form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation today.  We serve Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and more.

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