CDC will assess human exposure to toxins in communities near military bases

Elizabeth Howe
February 22, 2019 - 9:37 am

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Wright

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they will begin examining human exposure to toxic substances in communities near current or former military bases. 

The toxin being examined, per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are man-made chemicals used in products like non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics — and firefighting foams used by the DoD for decades. 

RELATED: Air Force’s firefighting foam linked to contaminated water

At elevated exposure levels, this foam can increase risks of cancer or other health issues, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study. Installations with elevated levels of firefighting foam chemicals span the entire country. 

Photo courtesy of US Government Accountability Office

RELATED: Harmful firefighting chemicals found in 126 base water supplies

The assessment is expected to begin in 2019 and continue through 2020 and analyze exposure levels in eight communities: 

  • Berkeley County (WV) near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base
  • El Paso County (CO) near Peterson Air Force Base
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough (AK) near Eielson Air Force Base
  • Hampden County (MA) near Barnes Air National Guard Base
  • Lubbock County (TX) near Reese Technology Center
  • Orange County (NY) near Stewart Air National Guard Base
  • New Castle County (DE) near New Castle Air National Guard Base
  • Spokane County (WA) near Fairchild Air Force Base

Individuals from these eight communities will be randomly selected — PFAS levels will be checked via blood and urine samples.

The results of these assessments will help communities better understand the extent of their environmental exposures to PFAS.

“The assessments will generate information about exposure to PFAS in affected communities and will extend beyond the communities identified, as the lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, Ph.D., director, CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

RELATED: Navy denies claims linked to contaminated water

So far, investigations into this contamination have cost $200 million and identified 401 installations with known or potential chemical exposure. 

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