The Japanese island hosting U.S. military bases and training sites is a forerunner in exposing the contamination, writes Pat Elder.
Fire-Fighting Exercises Spread ‘Forever Chemicals’
By Pat Elder
World BEYOND War
Contaminants are being detected in water samplings in communities adjacent to U.S. military installations around the world. One forerunning example—publicized more than five years ago—is the Japanese island of Okinawa, which hosts 32 U.S. bases and 48 training sites.
In 2013, The Japan Times published an exposé about the high concentrations of toxins generically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the drinking water in Okinawa communities adjacent to Kadena Air Base and the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The chemicals are found in the fire-fighting foam used in routine fire-training exercises on these bases and have been found in groundwater samplings. The Military Times in June ran an article about several women who have suffered miscarriages on military bases and have begun wondering if they were tied to something in the water.
The National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry both offer guidance about the possible health risks of PFAS exposure. The Environmental Protection Agency, while declining to regulate the chemicals, offers similar advice.
These agencies say the risks of high exposure include higher cholesterol levels; a decrease in how well the body responds to vaccines; heightened risk of thyroid disease; decreased fertility in women; increased risks to pregnant women that include high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia.
The Intercept reported on a small study that found certain PFAS correlated to lower sperm counts and other problems in males.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry points out that a large number of animal studies show that polydiacetylenes, or PDAs, can cause damage to the liver and the immune system.
Two other types of PFAS—perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—have caused birth defects, delayed development and newborn deaths…