(UnitedVoice.com) – Military bases overseas can sometimes be dangerous places because of the pollution, like burn pits. During the War on Terror, many service members developed cancer and other health issues after doing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the pollution. Generally, bases on the US mainland don’t deal with the same dangers as overseas bases. Apparently, that’s not true of one in Montana.
On August 7, Air Force Global Strike Command announced the detection of carcinogens at unsafe levels at a Montana nuclear missile base. According to the announcement, the military carried out “extensive sampling of active U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile bases” after members of the missile community reported cancer concerns. Among the samples taken were some from two facilities at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, The Associated Press reported.
Some of the samples from Malmstrom came back with PCB levels above the threshold the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) identifies polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as solids or oily liquids that can exist in the air and do not have a smell or taste. The manufacture of PCBs in the United States stopped in 1977 because evidence showed they could lead to harmful health side effects.
General Thomas Bussiere, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, ordered “immediate measures to begin the cleanup process for the affected facilities and mitigate exposure” by Guardians and airmen.
On August 8, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) released a statement calling on the Defense Department to act quickly to respond to the report detailing the unsafe carcinogens found at the base. He said he was “deeply alarmed by the Air Force’s most recent study” revealing the problems at Malmstrom. He said the missileers who work at the facilities “play a critical role in protecting Montana and our nation,” and he wants those impacted to receive answers from the government.
The Torchlight Initiative, a non-government organization, tracks the higher rates of cancer and other disorders found in the people who maintained, protected, operated, or supported missile facilities. The organization has found at least 268 troops who served at these sites and later came down with blood diseases, cancer, and other health problems.
In February, The Washington Post reported on some of the cases. Air Force Major Mark Holmes was among the service members who served at one of the facilities. Doctors later diagnosed him with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 37 years old when he died in 2020. The newspaper found 30 cancer cases tied to Malmstrom AFB.
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