Former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto through Getty Pictures
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The Division of Protection (DOD) underestimated what number of US service members are uncovered to probably unsafe ranges of power chemical substances within the consuming water served at navy installations, a brand new report from of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered.
Whereas the DOD places the variety of uncovered service members at 175,000 a yr at 24 bases, the EWG stated the quantity is nearer to greater than 600,000 at 116 navy installations.
“The Division of Protection is making an attempt to reduce these dangers as a substitute of aggressively in search of to tell service members and clear up the air pollution legacy,” EWG senior vp of presidency affairs Scott Faber informed The Guardian. . “It has [a] lengthy historical past of wanting the opposite method relating to PFAS air pollution. “
PFAS – or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – is an environmental poison identified for his or her resistance to destruction and their persistence within the atmosphere and the human physique. They’ve been widespread within the trade for the reason that Nineteen Forties for a lot of makes use of together with stain, warmth, and water-resistant merchandise. They’re additionally an energetic ingredient in Aqueous Movie Forming Foam, and the navy’s reliance on this foam is a significant motive why US navy bases have a few of the highest concentrations of PFAS within the nation, in accordance with The Warfare Horse. That is unhealthy information for the well being of service members, as PFAS publicity has been linked to every thing from most cancers to immune suppression to reproductive points.
For instance, Kendall Brock was identified with stage 4 bladder most cancers after serving 35 years as a member of the Air Nationwide Guard at Pease Air Pressure Base in New Hampshire. Two years earlier than his prognosis, the bottom water on the base examined optimistic for PFAS.
“If you assume you’ve got been consuming the water, and washing with it, and consuming the meals you’ve got cooked in it, for years and years – and you realize it – it’s extremely scary,” his spouse Doris informed him. the Warfare Horse. “It is scary as hell.”
In 2019, Congress directed the DOD to report on the potential well being results of PFAS publicity for energetic responsibility service members and veterans as a part of that yr’s Nationwide Protection Authorization Act. Nevertheless, EWG famous that the report, which was launched in April, contained a number of errors:
- Outdated security requirements: The DOD based mostly its calculations on publicity to PFOA and PFOS — two of essentially the most distinguished PFAS — on the 2016 US Environmental Safety Company (EPA) advisory security restrict of 70 elements per trillion (ppt). This led to the conclusion that 24 installations served their residents with contaminated consuming water. Nevertheless, when the report was launched, the EPA was within the technique of updating its advisory security ranges to close zero ppt. Whereas the replace was launched in June — two months after the DOD report — Faber informed The Guardian that the DOD was conscious of the upcoming adjustments and certain printed the report early to keep away from the necessity to -accommodate it. Taking into consideration the brand new EPA security limits, the EWG got here up with a calculation that greater than 640,000 service members have been uncovered in not less than 116 installations.
- Incomplete Evaluation: Even in case you settle for the 70 ppt security restrict, the DOD is underestimating publicity. It excluded not less than 4 bases from its report the place ranges increased than 70 ppt have been present in consuming water earlier than the report was issued: Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey; Yakima Coaching Heart, Washington; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
- Restricted Timeline: The DOD determine of 175,000 solely accounts for the way many individuals could also be consuming the contaminated water on the bases right this moment. This doesn’t account for everybody who lived and labored on bases between now and not less than the Seventies, when firefighting foam started for use, nor does it account for the truth that service members usually transfer between bases. .
- Incomplete Well being Examine: The report doesn’t contemplate all of the potential well being results of PFAS, together with PFOA and PFOS which were linked to testicular and kidney most cancers. Moreover, they didn’t contemplate the affect of PFAS publicity on pregnant girls and infants, even supposing almost 13,000 energetic responsibility service members give beginning annually, in accordance with the DOD’s personal statistics.
It wasn’t simply the content material of the report that Faber criticized, in accordance with The Guardian. It is also the truth that it is not printed on the DOD’s PFAS web site, that means that service members or different members of the general public who need to view it should request it from the division.
“That is the half that ought to hassle each American,” Faber stated. “It is not simply that they deliberately underestimated what number of service members have been uncovered … it is that they did not inform anyone.”