Arsenic Exposure and Veteran’s Disability

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When most of us think of arsenic, we think of old mystery movies, plays, or Agatha Christie novels, where it is used as a poisonous murder weapon. However, what most of us don’t realize is that many veterans were exposed to small amounts of arsenic on a daily basis, often for years. While exposure to lower levels of arsenic may not result immediately in death, many disabilities and death may arise years after exposure.

The most common routes of exposure in service-members are from jet fuel which may lead to severe symptoms. This can include fuel exhaust, diesel exhaust, and burn pits.  Arsenic is released in small quantities from the process of fuel combustion, and is released from several sources being incinerated in burn pits. In addition to burn pits, soldiers deployed to the desert were exposed to sandstorms and everyday desert dust, which itself contains a slew of toxic metals, including arsenic. I’ve written before about particulate matter and this toxic dust in Iraq that has caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in veterans, however the damage from arsenic is not confined to the lungs.

In the absence of exposure to Agent Orange, arsenic exposure is your strongest argument to service-connect your diabetes mellitus. Arsenic is one of the few chemicals which can cause diabetes after chronic exposure. Diabetes, of course, comes with a whole slew of secondary illnesses.


Arsenic exposure can cause many lesions and other unpleasant skin conditions. It is quite common for these illnesses to manifest 3 to 7 years after exposure. Arsenic also can cause skin cancer, and arsenic-caused skin cancer can take up to 40 years to manifest.

Neurological System

Chronic exposure to arsenic often begins with peripheral neuropathy, and the damage to your peripheral nerves can progress and lead to some paralysis of your extremities. Exposure to arsenic can affect your senses, especially hearing. Arsenic toxicity can also lead to a disorder that is often misdiagnosed as Guillain-Barre syndrome, an antiimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of the PNS, resulting in nerve inflammation that causes muscle weakness.

Gastrointestinal System

Arsenic is an irritant to your digestive tract, and often causes chronic esophagitis, gastritis, colitis, abdominal discomfort, anorexia, and trouble absorbing nutrients from your food.


Arsenic exposure can enlarge your liver, cause cirrhosis, and cause fatty degeneration of the liver.

Blood/Cardiovascular system

Arsenic can wreak havoc on your blood, causing bone marrow hypoplasia, aplastic anemia, leukopenia, clotting trouble, and anemia. Your heart can also be affected, as arsenic causes arrhythmias, pericarditis, ischemic heart disease, and hypertension.

Respiratory System

As I’ve mentioned, arsenic exposure can have severe implications for the lungs. Not only does  arsenic exposure cause lung cancer, but also emphysema , restrictive lung disease, as well as bronchitis.

Veterans must be aware that chronic arsenic exposure may be responsible for their disability, even if it has been years since their exposure to fuel exhaust or burn pits.  If you are experiencing one or more of the above disabilities, it is important that you think back to your time in service, and ask yourself my “Five Questions to Ask yourself When Proving VA Service Connection for Chemical Exposure.” Some Vietnam-era veterans spend years fighting the VA, trying to show Agent Orange exposure without boots on the ground, when their disability may have been caused by arsenic all along.

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  • Thank you to the firm of Hill & Ponton!! Brian Hill and his staff were able to get my 100% disability with the VA for my exposure to herbicides in Thailand. I have been fighting for this for many years and kept getting denied, after consulting with Hill & Ponton I decided to let them help me and it was the best decision I could have made. I found their professionalism to be outstanding.

    – Chip P.

    North Carolina

  • They got my disability rating after I was denied twice. They knew exactly how to format and submit the claim. I was rated 50%, Hill & Ponton weren’t done, they found other medical that related to exposure and submitted additional claims. I could not have received a disability rating without Hill & Ponton. If you need help, choose Hill & Ponton.

    – Thomas D.


  • The service provided by Hill and Ponton was exemplary. The lawyers and staff took care of every aspect with respect and understanding of the clients needs. In my case, as a new widow, they patiently walked me through each step. They kept me informed of the progress. I cannot say enough about the service they provided. Thank you Brian and staff.

    – Judith K Zitzewitz


  • As a Vet you may have filed a disability claim, and if you want to win your claim you need to call Hill and Ponton. I didn’t know what to do about my condition or status until I made the call. At H&P they not only took my case, but made me feel like family. They changed my life and they will change your life too. It’s true! In my opinion you can’t do better and you won’t regret it!

    – Paul K



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