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Toxic Chemical Exposure May Impact Veterans’ Risk for COVID-19 Complications, Including Adverse Reactions to the Vaccines

According to evidence found by the Environmental Working Group, those who have experienced prolonged exposure to “forever chemicals” are at a higher risk when it comes to contracting COVID-19, as well as adverse reactions to vaccines for the virus.

These toxic chemicals have been found in drinking water on many military bases but were most notably used as a key component of foam used to fight fire. For decades, this was the standard method for firefighting training. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they remain and build up in the body over time.

Aside from toxic exposure being linked to an array of health complications, there are implications to the general wellbeing of the immune systems of those exposed. Many will end up having suppressed immune systems according to Jamie DeWitt an associated professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Caroline University. It’s also common that exposure increases the risk of a hypersensitive immune system, as in the case with food allergies or asthma.

“Does it mean they will all get sick? No, but it does mean they have a higher risk of getting sick,” DeWitt said in an interview. DeWitt advocates for the vaccine prioritization of those who have had blood tests confirming high PFAS exposure. Yet, this is somewhat of a double edged sword as hypersensitive immune systems can sometimes illicit a negative response to the vaccines. Though seemingly rare, the increased risk of a bad reaction for those with a history of prolonged exposure to forever chemicals needs to looked into further.

“I think that the risk is real, but we can’t put definitive numbers on those risks right now,” DeWitt said.

It is apparent that more information is needed when considering the effects of coronavirus and its vaccines on veterans with prolonged PFAS exposure. As more vaccines are administered to veterans across the country, more light is likely to be shed on this link.

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