Nearly half of 5 million veterans screened found to have potential toxic substance exposure

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Nearly half of the 5 million veterans that have been screened by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under a new law have reported at least one possible exposure to toxic substances during their military service.

Announcing the 5 million screening milestone, the VA revealed that 2.1 million veterans — or 43 percent of those screened — were potentially exposed to such substances during their service.

A variety of toxic exposures can come up in these screenings, but the most common were exposures to burn pits and Agent Orange. 

Exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards that can be encountered during military service can cause a variety of cancers including those affecting the brain, neck, kidneys and pancreas. 

Agent Orange is a herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War. It can cause bladder cancer, blood cancers, Parkinson’s disease and birth defects. 

The screenings were launched as part of the PACT Act, a 2022 law that expanded benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a written statement that the screenings are aimed at improving health care and detecting “potential health challenges as early as possible.”

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