Are toxic chemicals at Air Force bases leading to cancer, low birth weight?

9th Jan 2018

For 25 years, Dan Cruz delivered mail at the Peterson Air Force Base and drank the water. Then came cancer – thyroid, prostate, testicular – he said never before seen in his family.

“I’m the only one that’s been diagnosed with cancer not once, not twice, but three times. People on my route… cancer has come upon them and sometimes stage 4,” Cruz told CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen.

The cause could be firefighting foam used since the 1970s at Air Force bases and airports across the country, something meant to save lives that may have harmed them instead. The foam contains highly fluorinated chemicals, known as PFCs. It is suspected of causing some cancers and underweight births.

Mica Ullum has lived near Peterson Air Force Base for a quarter century, in a town where the foam has contaminated the water. Sadie, one of three children born to Mica, was born premature, weighing a mere one pound six ounces. She spent 94 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. Mica’s four other pregnancies ended in miscarriage or death.

“With what you know now, do you think any of this has to do with the effects, potential effects, of what’s in the water?” Petersen asked.

“Possibly, yeah,” Ullum responded.


“Because if you continue to pump poison into your body, something has to respond,” Ullum said.

Peterson is one of 190 Air Force bases where PFCs may have leached in the ground and surrounding areas. One study based on EPA’s test results shows as many as six million people may be exposed nationwide to PFCs in their drinking water at higher levels than the EPA now deems safe.

But the more than 60,000 people in the communities near Peterson Air Force Base may be America’s hardest-hit. The EPA said anything over 70-parts per trillion could be dangerous. Some water they tested here had over 1,300 parts per trillion. Additionally, according to a proposed class action lawsuit filed against the foam manufacturers, it has caused serious medical conditions in hundreds of residents.

One foam manufacturing company, 3M, said there is no merit in the health claims, adding they “sold these products with instructions regarding their safe use and disposal…acted responsibly at all times…and will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”

But the Air Force has responded, spending more than $4 million to provide bottled water and filtration systems. Air Force firefighters now train with water, and for real fires it uses a different fluorinated foam, still containing another type of PFCs, but believed to be safer.

But some of those who have studied the new foam say the Air Force may have traded one evil for another.

“Our chemical regulation system makes us all guinea pigs… because chemicals are assumed safe until proven guilty and they go out into the world… and we are exposed to them with no health information,” said Arlene Blum, researcher at the University of California Berkeley…



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