In a previous post, I talked about the ways in which veterans could be exposed to Lead Paint. However, lead-based paint is not the only route of exposure. Veterans are also frequently exposed to chemicals containing lead, such as fuels, living and working on military bases contaminated with lead, on the shooting range, and even while soldering.
I’ve written several times on the toxic constituents of Jet Fuels such as JP-7 and JP-7, typically focusing on benzene, toluene, and other constituent components. However, JP Jet Fuels also contain lead, and even in non-jet aircraft, the gasoline typically used, (called AvGas) contains lead as well. In addition, older veterans who were alive before the switch from lead-containing gasolines to the ubiquitous unleaded gasoline we use today were certainly exposed to dangerous amounts of lead.
Environmental Lead at Military Bases
Even just living and/or working on some military bases could expose the average serviceman to lead. Many military bases ae on the EPA’s superfund clean up list. Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Center in New Jersey, for instance was found to have 6 inches of JP-Fuel in the ground water, and to be heavily contaminated with tetraethyl lead. Vieques, Puerto Rico residents have long been complaining about the contamination of their area by the Navy, with one group saying the Navy “has caused more damage to Puerto Rico than any other single actor in the history of Puerto Rico.” High levels of lead, as well as mercury, arsenic, as well as many other chemicals taint the entire area. There are many, many military bases in the United States on the EPA watchlist or superfund list.
At the Shooting Range
The National Research Council found that air measurements for lead were higher than the OSHA acceptable standards on many military shooting ranges. The Council found that those who worked in military shooting ranges had high levels of lead in their blood. The Council recommended medical surveillance for workers who ere exposed as infrequently as 30 days per year.
Most solder has been made with lead, and most veterans who worked in maintenance or electronics where they were required to use solder have been exposed to lead. While, in recent years, there has been a shift towards lead-free solder, it is considered inferior in durability to lead solder, and may still be used frequently.
As we can see, there are several ways in which veterans can show exposure to lead. In the next part in the series, I will discuss the many health effects of lead exposure.