The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has admitted that it allowed a firefighting foam to contaminate drinking water systems at military bases around the globe. As a result, tens of thousands of Americans were exposed to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to cancers, immune suppression and other serious health problems.
Studies have also shown that PFAS may affect the growth, learning and behavior of babies and children or interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
The DoD has reportedly identified at least 400 active or closed military installations with potential PFAS contamination. In some cases, the chemicals may also have filtered into the groundwater. The Pentagon said that at least 36 military installations show PFAS levels in drinking water in excess of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory levels.
While the problem was identified many years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that for the first time, it would launch regulatory action on the matter.
Residents of eight communities who live near current or former military installations will have their blood and urine examined by government officials. The testing will determine the extent of the residents’ exposure to PFAS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The military bases include Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York, Reese Technology Center and former Air Force base in Texas, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, West Virginia’s Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base in West Virginia, and New Castle Air National Guard Base in Delaware.