Military base water contamination report far worse than we thought

Matt Saintsing
June 22, 2018 - 4:28 pm



A government study on the toxicity levels of chemicals commonly found in military firefighting foam was made public Wednesday, months after the White House said it could spark a “public relations nightmare.”

Now, we know why.

After a March Defense Department report to the House Armed Services Committee surfaced, it became widely known that at least 126 U.S. military bases tested at alarming rates of polyfluoroalkl chemicals (PFOS), which is found in military firefighting foam.

That report led the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a more in-depth analysis on the adverse health effects of the chemicals. As expected, it finds that the chemicals leaked into communities’ drinking water supplies.

The 800+ page report is rather extensive, and frankly made my eyes bleed. Here’s what you need to know:

The long term health effects on exposure to PFAS substances includes liver damage, elevated cholesterol, issues with pregnancy, immunization problems, and even infertility. Perhaps worse, PFAS can get in breast milk and impact a fetus in the womb.

Effects on lab animals include toxicity of the liver, immune system, and impacting the animals’ development. It can also lead to complete organ failure. While comparisons between lab rats and humans is often useful, HHS says it can take humans four years to expel the chemicals, while rodents are PFOS free in a matter of hours.  

This, of course, has grave implications for U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. Since firefighting foams are commonly used during military excercises, these chemicals leeched into the drinking water and groundwater supplies of installations throughout the military. The true scope of the problem could be bigger than initially thought as nearly 3 million people get their drinking water from DoD systems. 

The March report included a table of the 126 military installations that measured the number of wells to have tested above EPA levels for the toxic chemicals, with Pease Air Force Base—now closed down—coming in as having 60 percent of their 229 wells testing above accepted levels.

In all, 25 Army posts; 50 Air Force bases; 49 Navy or Marine Corps installations, and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at “higher than acceptable levels” for the chemicals found in drinking or groundwater sources.

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