Oscoda Army Air Field, Camp Skeel, and Oscoda Air Force Post were the names given to Michigan's Wurtsmith Air Force Base between 1923 and 1993. Toxic chemicals contained in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), generally referred to as PFAS, began to poison the base's drinking water in the 1970s.
Contamination with PFAS was unavoidable due to the frequency with which military firemen would use the bases’ fire suppressant. As a result, the water at Wurtsmith Air Force Base was contaminated, affecting everyone stationed there.
What Have Studies Shown?
Long-term exposure to toxic volatile organic compounds in the water supply of the now-decommissioned Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, as well as their families who lived on the base during the 1970s, has been linked to an increased risk of leukemia and other harmful effects, according to The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal health agency. The base was closed in 2000.
ATSDR has revealed several findings regarding the impact of Wurtsmith Veterans' 1970s exposure to hazardous levels of the degreasing solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) and the fuel byproduct benzene in the base's water supply. These are some of the same chemicals found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
Recently, the ATSDR concluded that past exposures to groundwater may have increased the risk of developing adverse health effects, but that it was unknown whether the (volatile organic compounds) concentrations persisted at high enough levels for long enough durations to actually pose a public health threat.
The ATSDR assessed exposures to TCE and benzene in groundwater in conjunction with more recent scientific understanding on routes into the human body, including skin contact and inhalation during showers or baths, rather than only drinking water.
A report published by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that certain children and adults who used TCE-contaminated water for drinking, showering, and bathing, or just drinking, on the base and in the surrounding communities may be at risk for the following conditions:
- Heart anomalies, including an increased chance of fetal heart defects in women who are expecting a child;
- Weakened immune systems;
According to the paper, exposure to benzene from the same groundwater pollution beneath the base is associated with an elevated risk of acute myeloid leukemia, a kind of bone marrow cancer, as well as other diseases.
What Is the Air Force Doing About This?
The air force has done little to nothing to address this issue. They argue that they are only responsible for cleanup and not for health, and they have disregarded most allegations and accusations.
Why Haven’t Many Veterans Received Their VA Compensation?
Regarding PFAS exposure, the VA maintains that further epidemiologic study is required before any service connection can be made. The VA often asserts "At this time, scientific and medical data is unclear, but may only be reviewed on a case by case basis." This is the same response VA has provided in response to other toxic exposure situations over the years—ranging from Agent Orange to the water at Camp Lejeune.
To combat this, health experts appear to be leaning toward other methods of determining previous exposure, such as testing immune system function, thyroid function, hormone and cholesterol levels, and other indications of exposure.
Wurtsmith Toxic Exposure: Who Is Eligible for Compensation?
The VA urges anyone with questions concerning potential exposures to TCE and benzene in base drinking water during the 1970s in Wurtsmith, or their family members to contact the District Health Department number at 800-504-2650. Regardless, if you served at Wurtsmith and have a disease that could be linked to toxic exposure there, you should file a claim for VA benefits.
Even if your illness is not among those listed above, you may be eligible for compensation because PFAS exposure has been linked to several types of cancer. It's a good idea to get a second and third opinion from various doctors because TCE, benzene, and PFAS-related disorders are frequently misunderstood. In addition to helping you get the treatment you need, a proper diagnosis may also qualify you for compensation.
Toxic Exposure Denials Can Be Appealed on Your Behalf by Veterans Disability Info's Lawyers
If you or a family member of a Veteran who resided at Wurtsmith Air Force Base for at least a year and afterward got a sickness, our attorneys can help. We have decades of expertise litigating hazardous exposure cases, so you can be rest assured that you’re in good hands.