Many Servicemembers use industrial solvents in regular military tasks such as cleaning, degreasing, paint stripping, and thinning oil-based paints. Too much exposure to some industrial solvents can cause short-term and long-term health effects.
Health effects of exposure to solvents
Exposure to solvents may impact your health depending on the specific chemicals, level of concentration, length of exposure, and how it enters the body.
- Inhaled vapors: These may irritate the eyes, cause drowsiness, difficulty with breathing and if severe, neurological damage
- Direct eye contact: This may cause burning and tearing and if severe, visual problems.
- Skin contact: This may cause skin dryness, irritation, rashes or chemical burns.
- Ingested: Although rare, this can cause serious illness.
For information on specific solvents, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides the following fact sheets:
- Benzene (55 KB, PDF) (and other aromatic hydrocarbons)
- Perchlorate (66 KB, PDF)
- Perfluorooctane sulfonate (135 KB, PDF) (and other perfluorinated surfactants)
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE or PERC) (145 KB, PDF)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) (76 KB, PDF) (and other chlorinated hydrocarbons)
- Vinyl chloride (59 KB, PDF), which can form when TCE and PCE are broken down
If you are concerned about exposure to industrial solvents during military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.
Veterans not enrolled in the VA health care system, find out if you qualify for VA health care.
Veterans' dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits. Read Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors to learn more.
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