A report released on December 15th, 2022, found that approximately 600,000 U.S. troops may have been exposed to toxic “forever chemicals” at military bases across the country.
The report reveals that the toxic chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have contaminated the drinking water at numerous military bases, including some in North Carolina.
The report, produced by the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General, states the military knew about the dangers of PFAS contamination for decades but failed to take appropriate actions to protect service members and their families.
PFAS is a class of chemicals that are resistant to breaking down within the environment and have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and immune system damage.
According to the report, the Department of Defense has been aware of the risks associated with PFAS contamination since the 1970s but failed to address the issue until the late 1990s.
As a result, thousands of military personnel and their families have been exposed to these dangerous chemicals.
The report recommends the military take immediate action to identify and address PFAS contamination at all military installations across the country.
It also calls for the Department of Defense to provide both medical screening and treatment for service members and their families exposed to PFAS.
The findings of this report highlight the urgent need for greater accountability and transparency in how the military handles environmental issues.
What Are PFAS? What Does It Stand For?
Poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that are commonly found in the environment, yet often go unnoticed due to their persistent nature.
These chemicals are highly toxic and have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, making them desirable for use in a variety of everyday products, such as nonstick cookware, food packaging, water-resistant clothing, and firefighting foam, which is used by the United States military.
Despite their usefulness, the pervasive presence of PFAS and their potential health risks require careful consideration and responsible management.
Exposure to PFAS can have severe and long-lasting health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease, and developmental issues in fetuses and infants. These toxic chemicals can also disrupt hormone levels and weaken the immune system.
Due to their persistence in the environment and the body, the health effects of PFAS exposure may take years to surface, making it difficult to trace the source of related health issues.
Furthermore, studies show that children born to mothers that were exposed to PFAS during pregnancy may have lower birth weights and an increased risk of developmental delays.
Additionally, PFAS chemicals accumulate in the body over time and may be passed from one generation to the next, highlighting the need for greater awareness and effective management.
Where Exactly Is This Happening?
As of March 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) has reported over 700 military bases that have experienced PFAS contamination in their drinking water.
Here’s a map that shows just some of the locations (courtesy of CNBC, EWG, SSHERI):
Some of the most severe cases of PFAS contamination have occurred in Texas and California.
In San Antonio, Texas, the former Kelly Air Force Base has become infamous for its PFAS contamination.
Despite the base closing in 2001, contamination remains an ongoing issue. In 2018, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the DoD and the Air Force for exposing them to PFAS.
Meanwhile, in Orange County, California, the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro has now been identified as a significant site of PFAS contamination.
Like Kelly Air Force Base, El Toro was closed in 1999, but the contamination persists.
In 2016, a group of residents living near the base filed a lawsuit against the DoD and the Marine Corps, citing PFAS exposure as the cause of cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems.
Here is a complete list of military bases where PFAS have been found:
• Fort Leavenworth (Kansas)
• Joint Forces Training Base (California)
• Belmont Armory (Michigan)
• McChord Air Force Base (Washington)
• Fort Hunter Liggett (California)
• Sierra Army Depot (California)
• Camp Grayling (Michigan)
• El Camp Training Site (Texas)
• Fort Lewis (Washington)
• Picatinny Arsenal (New Jersey)
• Camp Ethan Allen (Vermont)
• Fort Drum (New York)
• Camp Smith (New York)
• Yuma Proving Ground (Arizona)
• Fort Bragg (North Carolina)
• Coventry Training Site (Rhode Island)
• Center Strafford Training Site (New Hampshire)
• Bangor Air Guard Training Site (Maine)
• West Point Military Reservation (New York)
• Marianna Readiness Cener (Florida)
• Sharpe Army Depot (California)
• Silverbell Army Heliport (Arizona)
• Carlisle Barracks (Pennsylvania)
• Rock Island Arsenal (Illinois)
• Camp Navajo (Arizona)
• Camp Tarlton (Ohio)
• Camp Williams (Utah)
• Fort Riley (Kansas)
• Ocala Readiness Center (Florida)
• Fort Huachuca (Arizona)
• North Smithfield Air Guard Station (Rhode Island)
• Camp Parks (California)
• Camp Ripley (Minnesota)
• Gunpowder Military Reservation (Maryland)
• Shelbyville Army Aviation Support Facility (Indiana)
• Frederick Readiness Center (Maryland)
• Christmas Valley Air Force Station (Oregon)
• Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support (Michigan)
• Midwest City Readiness Center (Oklahoma)
• White Sands Missile Range (New Mexico)
• Fort Gordon (Georgia)
• Camp Grafton (North Dakota)
• Custer Training Site (South Dakota)
• Fort Detrick (Maryland)
• Camp Guernsey (Wyoming)
• Camp Baker (Maryland)
• Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (Missouri)
• North Hyde Park Training Site (Vermont)
• Camp Minden (Louisiana)
• Lane County Armed Forces Reserve Center (Oregon)
• Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri)
• Westminster Training Site (Vermont)
• West Camp Rapid (South Dakota)
• Camp Ashland (Nebraska)
• Stone’s Ranch Military Reservation (Connecticut)
• Camp McCain (Mississippi)
• Cam Fretterd Readiness (Maryland)
• Camp Rilea (Oregon)
• Biak Training Center (Oregon)
• Camp Ravenna (Ohio)
• Queen Anne Readiness Center (Maryland)
• Camp Gruber (Oklahoma)
• Camp Bowie (Texas)
• Camp Davis (North Dakota)
• Camp Roberts (California)
• Camp Blanding (Florida)
• SSG Isadore S. Jachman Reserve Center (Maryland)
• McCrady Training Center (South Carolina)
• Limestone Hills Training (Montana)
• Redstone Arsenal (Alabama)
• Lebanon Motor Pool (Oregon)
• Camp Shelby (Mississippi)
• Greenlief Training (Nebraska)
• Alcantra Armory Complex (Alaska)
• Gerry Reserve Center (New York)
• Stewart Air National Guard (New York)
• Roseburg Academy (Oregon)
• Montesano Armory (Washington)
• Salem Anderson Readiness (Oregon)
• Jackson Readiness Center (Michigan)
• SSG Frederick J. III Jr. (New York)
• Buckeye Training Site (Arizona)
• Picacho Aviation Training Site (Arizona)
• Hayward Training Site (Wisconsin)
• Camp Florence (Arizona)
• La Plata Readiness Center (Maryland)
• Mead Training Site (Nebraska)
• Grants Pass Armory (Oregon)