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)
- Vinyl chloride (59 KB, PDF), which can form when TCE and PCE are broken down
If you are concerned about health problems associated with exposure to industrial solvents during your military service, talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to help you get more information from a health care provider.
Compensation benefits for health problems
Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to industrial solvents during military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.
Learn more about VA benefits.
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