Toxic Exposure and Fort McClellan

Fort McClellan, an Army installation located in Anniston, Alabama, had a diverse history between opening in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, when it was known as Camp Shipp, through its mandated closure in 1999 pursuant to the Army Base Closure and Realignment Committee (BRAC) program.  During that time frame, Fort McClellan was home to the U.S. Army Chemical Corp School, Women’s Army Corps, Army Combat Development Command Chemical/Biological/Radiological Agency, and Army Military Police School, and served an important role in both World Wars.  Today, redevelopment and reuse of the land is overseen by the McClellan Development Authority.

There has been much debate since the shut-down of Fort McClellan, which involved a comprehensive environmental cleanup up as mandated by BRAC, as to whether veterans were exposed to toxic levels of environmental hazards, such as:

  • radioactive compounds used in decontamination training activities
  • chemical warfare agents (mustard gas and nerve agents) used in decontamination testing
  • airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Monsanto plant located in Anniston

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acknowledges that veterans may have been exposed to such hazards, but has not established an environmental health registry for Fort McClellan on the basis that exposure levels to any such toxic materials were insufficient to cause adverse health conditions.[1]

Veterans beg to differ with the VA’s current stance on Fort McClellan, citing, for instance, a significant monetary settlement between Monsanto and citizens of Anniston for PCB contamination.  The class action specifically excluded Fort McClellan veterans.   In addition, veterans cite a 1998 U.S. Army report[2] detailing the presence of contaminants requiring clean-up before the fort could be decommissioned and turned over for public use.  Another study, by the National Academy of Medicine in 2005, recognized groundwater and soil contamination at Fort McClellan and noted the existence of disposal sites for dangerous and hazardous toxins including volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, explosives, unexploded ordinance, radioactive sources, trichloroethylene, PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides, and non-stockpile chemical materials.

Veterans’ advocates have continued to push for service connection on a case-by-case basis on the belief that scientific and clinical data support a finding that toxins found at Fort McClellan can lead to numerous medical problems, many of which don’t manifest until years after service, including:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Brain cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Eye defects
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Impaired immune system
  • Kidney cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Memory problems
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Reproductive problems
  • Scleroderma
  • Skin disorders
  • Soft tissue cancer
  • Thyroid problems
  • Vision problems

For more information about toxic exposure and Fort McClellan, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Public Health site at  Avard Law Offices is available to work with veterans who believe exposure to toxins at Fort McClellan has led to current adverse medical conditions.

[1] U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-NY, has worked for years to establish a health registry to track medical conditions among veterans of Fort McClellan, and recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs about his Fort McClellan Registry Act.

[2] Final Environmental Baseline Survey, published in January 1998.


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