Read the full article by Chris Daniels, Andrea Nejman and Alex Brauer (NBC Montana)
“A groundbreaking new government study found a link between ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS and testicular cancer among servicemembers. It’s triggering calls to ensure all servicemembers receive critical health information.
Roger Hill’s medical records chronicle the autumn that changed his life, starting in October 1997. He was serving in the US Air Force as a firefighter, deployed to Saudi Arabia when pain sent him to the doctor.
He was told, at just 26 years old, he had testicular cancer.
Hill, who now lives in Virginia, had surgery to remove the testicular tumor that Christmas Eve, enduring a nine-hour surgery months later, and went through two rounds of chemotherapy. He recalls losing about 40 pounds and feeling ‘sick as a dog.’
The health ordeal was a mystery, he says, until recent revelations.
They surround his time working with AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam, used to douse fires involving jet fuel. It’s commonly used in military firefighting training. That foam is now known to contain a set of toxic so-called ‘forever’ chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to reproductive issues, developmental delays in children, and multiple types of cancer.
‘Memories start to come back,’ Hill said, ‘and they started to come together in my brain, like, yeah this could have caused it.’
He told us he and fellow service members were told the foam was like soap. Photos from the Department of Defense (DOD) dated 2013 describe the foam as ‘non-hazardous’ and ‘similar to dish soap.’ With that in mind, Hill told us the foam would blow in their face, they’d handle it without full protective gear, and they’d put on gear that was dripping wet, he believed, from the foam.
Studies have shown the rates of testicular cancer in firefighters are 100% higher than the general population, with many blaming the PFAS in firefighting foam for the increased risk.
However, no research has examined military service members and this issue until now.
A groundbreaking federal study, the largest examination of PFAS exposure and testicular cancer to date, looked at the banked blood of Air Force servicemembers. It found those employed in fire protection had elevated concentrations of PFOS, a PFAS chemical, in their blood. Higher blood levels of PFOS were linked to testicular cancer.
The research is strong, according to Dr. Alan Ducatman. He participated in the design of one of the biggest studies to date examining the impact of PFAS chemicals. He’s also a former lieutenant commander in the military.
He told us he believes the science in this realm is strong enough to form policy.
Critics say changes in military policy have been slow. As Spotlight on America first exclusively reported, unclassified documents reveal the military knew about the health risks of PFAS in firefighting foam as far back as a decade ago.
But it took until now to enforce change. Starting last month, the DOD was required by Congress to stop buying AFFF and stop using it by October of next year.
The DOD told Spotlight on America that PFAS in a firefighter’s blood doesn’t reveal how, where, or when they were exposed, and from what source.
Despite growing evidence of the risks of PFAS chemicals, Roger Hill told Spotlight on America there are many who may not even be aware, especially in the military community, and he’s calling on the DOD to be accountable.
‘I’ll take an apology,’ he said. ‘And admit that what they did was wrong and not really important to them, not knowing how much it affected people and of course their families.’
Congress mandated that the military start testing firefighters for PFAS in their blood back in 2020. On the next Spotlight on America report, we dig into the data the DOD has released, and ask a member of Congress what’s being done to ensure servicemembers have access to the information they need when it comes to PFAS exposure.”…