Read the full article by Enrique Saenz

“BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – Millions of Hoosiers who have served on military installations across the U.S., including a base in Indiana, may have been exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, developmental problems and other potentially deadly health problems, according to a U.S. Department of Defense report released in late July.

Grissom Air Reserve Base near Kokomo was named in the report as one of about 400 military installations with known or suspected use of perfluorooctanic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, which the EPA named late last year as ‘contaminants of emerging concern.’

The chemicals, noted to be ‘extremely persistent in the environment,’ have been used for decades to fight fires on military and civilian airfields nationwide in the form of aqueous film forming foam. They also are used to make carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics and other materials resistant to water, grease or stains.

When used in firefighting foam, the chemicals can leach into drinking water. Although the drinking water wells at Grissom met safety standards for PFOA and PFOS, the Air Force reported that 16 of 18 on-base monitoring wells not used for drinking water tested above the EPA lifetime health advisory levels…

The Air Force says only 19 out of 203 installations tested face drinking water mitigation, but that may not prevent people living on or near affected military installations from being affected by the chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says besides drinking contaminated water, people can be exposed to the chemicals in other ways like inhaling dust with traces of the chemicals. Alternative forms of exposure could lead to the same adverse health effects. The Air Force Civil Engineering Center admits that additional site testing may be required for 190 of those installations. It’s unclear whether Grissom ARB will be among the installations required to undergo further testing, or when that will happen.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued lifetime drinking water health advisories for both PFOA and PFOS in 2016. The chemicals are not banned, but the EPA warns that prolonged exposure could cause adverse health effects. The chemicals have been linked to developmental problems in fetuses during pregnancy or in breastfed infants, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty or skeletal variations.

They have also been linked to testicular and kidney cancer, tissue damage in the liver, and multiple changes to the immune system and thyroid.

The U.S. government began using aqueous film forming foam in the 1970s to extinguish petroleum fires. The PFOS-rich foam fulfilled the military’s firefighting requirements for burn-back resistance, protection against vapor release and rapid fire extinguishment.

The primary U.S. manufacturers of both PFOS and PFOAs voluntarily agreed to phase out production by 2002 and 2015 respectively, according to an EPA fact sheet. The EPA is concerned about their continued use in existing stocks and imported goods, but the Department of Defense has not followed the lead of manufacturing companies.”