Read the full article by Pat Elder (Military Poisons)
“In 2022 Yukio Negiyama, a 76-year-old resident of Hino in western Tokyo, and other residents formed The Group to Uncover Facts about PFAS Pollution in the Tama Area. They contacted Professors Koizumi and Harada to organize a survey to check the levels of PFAS in resident’s blood.
In May of 2023, the group released results of the blood tests, which covered 551 out of 650 people tested. The residents are from 28 cities, towns, and villages in western Tokyo. Blood is measured in nanograms per milliliter or ng/ml, or parts per billion, ppb.
Their plasma samples were analyzed for four PFAS chemicals — PFOS, PFHxS, PFOA and PFNA. The results showed that the average level of exposure for the sum of the four chemicals was 24.2 ppb, while the highest was 124.5 ppb.
The highest PFAS concentration was seen among residents in Kokubunji, where average exposure was 44.9 ppb, followed by 29 ppb in Tachikawa and 24.1 ppb in Fuchu. These communities are several kilometers east of — and downstream from — U.S. Yokota Air Base where the Air Force has recklessly used and discarded PFAS since the 1970’s.
The Japanese government has failed to set a national health policy or create nationally publicized advice to physicians on treating patients with high PFAS blood levels.
I served as a community liaison with the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2022 and provided input into the document ‘Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-up.’
A group of us were successful in lobbying the respected American academic institution to adapt specific instructions for physicians based on certain levels of PFAS compounds.
Some of us also pressed them to adapt fish consumption guidelines especially regarding PFOS. We won on the blood. We lost on the fish.
The National Academies says there is an increased risk of adverse health effects if the total of these seven compounds exceeds 2 ppb: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnDA, and MeFOSAA.
Clinical guidance for follow-up with patients after PFAS blood tests are analyzed
For serum PFAS concentrations below 2 ppb physicians should continue the usual standard of care.
For patients with a serum PFAS concentration of 2 ppb – 20 ppb, clinicians should encourage PFAS exposure reduction if a source of exposure is identified, especially for pregnant women. Clinicians should:
- Prioritize screening for dyslipidemia.
- Screen for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy at all prenatal visits
- Screen for breast cancer
For patients with serum PFAS concentration of 20 ppb or higher, clinicians should perform the following tests during all routine visits:
- Conduct thyroid function testing (for patients over age 18) with serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Assess for signs and symptoms of kidney cancer (for patients over 45), including with urinalysis, and
- For patients over 15, assess for signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and ulcerative colitis.
Harada and Negiyama’s brilliant teamwork showed that 300 of the 551 residents had levels of PFAS in blood exceeding 20 ppb. Some of these people may be in imminent danger! They must refrain from continuing to ingest PFAS and they must be clinically screened for a host of diseases.
Harms from high levels of PFAS may include reproductive issues like changes to fertility, early puberty and risk of low birth weight, obesity, diabetes, immune system impacts, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, several types of cancer, and neurological and behavioral problems. The developing fetus, infants, and children are especially vulnerable since their physiological systems are still developing.
Harada told the Japan Times that Yokota Air Base is ‘no doubt one of the sources, if not the entire source’ of PFAS contamination in western Tokyo, noting that more blood testing is needed to fully understand the extent of contamination. Harada suggests Tokyoites check their community’s public drinking water. After finding out the levels of contamination, residents can decide whether to use water activated carbon filters to minimize their exposure to the chemicals in drinking water, he added.
It is well documented that the region around Yokota Air Base is profoundly contaminated with these carcinogens, while there are multiple pathways to human ingestion.
Other Tests in the Tama area
In early 2023, 273 people in the Tama area had their blood tested for four PFAS compounds: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS and PFNA. 60% exceeded 20 ppb. The Americans test for seven compounds including the four above, along with MeFOSAA, PFDA, and PFUnDA.
The blood plasma of pregnant women and infants in Japan are contaminated with PFAS substances. A 2018 study found PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnDA, PFDODA, and PFTrDA in blood plasma of pregnant women. The highest levels were found for PFOS (30.28 ppb), PFOA (24.88 ppb), and PFNA (13.19 ppb). These are staggering numbers.
Are the children OK?
Curiously, there was a positive association between maternal education and PFOA levels, while higher annual household income was associated with higher PFOS and PFOA levels.
Okinawa – Liaison to Protect the Lives of Citizens Against PFAS Contamination
The Okinawan citizens’ group sampled the blood of 387 people in six municipalities. Results are in parts per billion. The people from these towns live close to U.S. military bases in Okinawa. We must understand these numbers.
Average blood levels for the combination of just three PFAS compounds: PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS, were above 25 ppb for those tested from the cities of Ginowan, Kin Town, and Chatan.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is in Ginowan. Kadena Air Base forms the northern boundary of Chatan, while Camp Hanson is in Kin Town. All three bases have a lengthy record of environmental releases of the carcinogenic chemicals.
The tap water is contaminated, but other sources of contamination like the fish play a role in the alarming blood levels.
In 2019, researchers from Kyoto University led by Koizumi Akio, conducted blood checks on residents living in Ginowan City, home of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. They tested the concentrations of PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS in the blood of 44 residents of Oyama, Ginowan City, and measured the same in the blood of 61 residents of Nanjo City.
Average levels in blood serum in 105 residents in Ginowan City, (ppb):
Total 33.5 ppb
These people are in trouble and they may not know it.
Wastewater Treatment Plants
PFAS is in the sludge.
Sewer drains throughout U.S. military installations connect aircraft hangars and machine shops to the sanitary sewer systems which act like grand central stations for PFAS. The wastewater treatment plants produce poisonous sludge that contaminates farm fields, while the liquid effluent poisons surface water and aquatic life.
PFOA and PFOS behave differently in the wastewater treatment process. PFOS and other compounds tend to travel through the liquid effluent into the rivers after the ‘treatment’ process. PFOA and other PFAS compounds migrate to the sludge which is often spread on farm fields. PFAS is not typically treated during the process. It is allowed to pass into the soil and the water.
Impact of wastewater treatment facility on PFOS levels in a stream
Naval Research Laboratory – Chesapeake Bay Detachment, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. NAVFAC 2021 RAB Minutes
This U.S. Navy graphic shows a stream flowing from the top left to the bottom right. The red X shows the location of the wastewater treatment plant on base. PFOS levels increase from 137 ppt to 1,230 ppt as the stream picks up the outflow from the plant. While the U.S. military would like us to believe PFAS contamination is caused solely by firefighting foams, this graphic depicts otherwise.
Terra Daily reports that sewer sludge is cheap in Japan and has centuries of tradition. It is known as ‘shimogoe’ or fertilizer from a person’s bottom. Applying sludge to agricultural fields is becoming more popular in Japan because the war in Ukraine is raising the price of chemical alternatives.
A June 2023 segment from Agence France-Presse reported on the popular use of human waste fertilizer in Japan:
“In the United States, there have been recent concerns about the levels of so-called forever chemicals (PFAS) in fertiliser made from sewage. An environment ministry official said similar concerns had not been reported in Japan, but noted there are no current guidelines for PFAS levels in soil. ‘We’re in the process of developing a scientifically reliable way to measure PFAS and studying how to regulate it,’ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.“
Rather than rediscovering the wheel, Japanese officials may consider copying and pasting methods from more responsible state entities worldwide.
Japan should ban the practice of allowing sewer sludge to be applied to agricultural fields. The country ought to institute robust testing regimes to track PFAS levels in soil and produce.
The US military in Japan says it is in the process of replacing firefighting foams containing PFAS with fluorine-free foams. After removal of the legacy foams, they say, the foams are incinerated at licensed disposal facilities, according to U.S. Forces Japan.
With additional gratitude for the work of Jon Mitchell, we know at least 142 tons of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) concentrate, originating from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma were incinerated by a civilian firm. The company first incinerated the chemicals and then buried the waste at a landfill site in Okinawa City that was later found to have extremely high levels of PFAS in its groundwater. The Marine Corps did not notify the contractor that the material it was burning contained PFAS.
The Marines told Mitchell their actions were ‘appropriate.‘
PFAS compounds require unusually high temperatures to burn. Most incinerators are incapable of reaching temperatures high enough to assure the complete destruction of the toxins. Incinerating PFAS is madness. The chemical dust settles on the ground and in the water to start its destructive process anew.
By March of 2023, the Air Force said it had shut down AFFF firefighting systems at 1,038 facilities out of 1,095 worldwide that were equipped with the foam.
PFAS in dust
The concentrations of PFOS and PFOA in the vacuum cleaner dust collected in Japanese homes were measured twenty years ago. Astronomical levels of the compounds were detected in all the dust samples and the ranges were up to 2,500,000 ppt for PFOS and 3,700,000 ppt for PFOA.
In 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted a similar study in Martinsburg, West Virginia in homes very close to the base had dust containing the following concentrations of PFAS:
High levels of these compounds were detected in surface water and groundwater escaping from the Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base. Scientists believe that the carcinogens leaving military bases coat the banks of streams and rivers. The sediment dries in the sun and is lifted by the wind. It settles in our lungs and homes while the incineration of materials containing PFAS adds to the concentrations.
The authors of the Japanese study warn the Japanese public about the health of children. Changing the vacuum cleaner bag may present a severe hazard.
In the United States reactions to arguments like this often involve charges of ‘wokeism’ or demagoguery. It’s a brave new world where health warnings gleaned from science are met with rejection and ridicule.
It is becoming apparent that people must advocate for themselves.
What’s in your fish, Japan? What’s in your blood?”