You want to love the memories from your childhood, no matter where you lived. But there’s a different charm to spending your early years near military bases. Among the beautiful memories of Marines, Airmen, Sailors, soldiers, or Coastguardsmen marching, planes flying, and jets roaring, those who have lived near these bases are now faced with a threat.
Much military personnel and their families are now finding out that the water they had been drinking in their homes and various materials they had been using were contaminated. This type of water contamination is not to be taken lightly as the contaminants are hazardous and cause multiple health problems.
We are talking PFAS contamination here. PFAS refers to per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which include two chemicals: PFOS, which is perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, and PFOA, which is perfluorooctanoic acid. Ordinarily, you would refer to them as forever chemicals because they virtually never degrade under the action of the environment.
Certain regions in the U.S. have high concentrations of toxic substances or fluorinated compounds. According to the recent statistics from the environmental working group, more than 2800 regions in the country have dangerous levels of PFAS contamination.
According to EWG, the contamination is most severe in the country’s eastern and western coastal areas.
One of the issues why PFAS are so common in the U.S., is that EPA does not regulate these chemicals. Environmental Protection Agency handled nearly 90 contaminants in water supplies within the country, but PFAS isn’t one of them.
Currently, there is no official standard for how much PFAS is allowed within the water, but specific arbitrary criteria have been drawn to help the public. EPA’s health advisory recommendations state that 70ppt is the maximum level of PFAS in drinking water.
The more important thing to mention here is that these agencies take the presence of forever chemicals in drinking water seriously. The government’s recent $1 billion investment to make these laws more transparent and robust proves that.
As for the presence of forever chemicals in agricultural water, the environmental working group recently analyzed that there was a high possibility of farmers using water with PFAS contamination.
Before getting into the harms of PFAS in drinking water, it is essential to know that what’s causing the problem is not just the presence of these chemicals in the water system but their tremendously high levels.
One of the most significant impacts of such chemicals in drinking water is high rates of infertility in women. Moreover, newborns have a higher chance of being born below normal weight.
Drinking water contaminated with PFAS for a long time can also result in testicular cancer and kidney cancer. The most dangerous effect is that it endangers your immune system and makes vaccines ineffective inside your body. With one after another pandemic emerging in today’s world, that’s the worst thing to happen to someone.
Some of the effects of PFAS are very odd, such as causing health problems related to your heart. It can cause cholesterol levels to shoot up and damage your liver by affecting liver enzymes.
According to recent studies and reports from NHANES, a program by the CDC, the presence of PFOS and PFOA has decreased by 85% and 70% in the blood of U.S. citizens from 2000 to 2018. That’s a great sign, but you cannot ignore the fact that many new PFAS has now emerged in the products used by U.S. citizens daily.
The Federal Government is working on taking actions that reduce the presence of PFAS in manufactured products and enhance the cleanup process at the most affected sites.
The Department of Defense is constantly working on cleaning up the sites that have PFAS in drinking water. Despite the cleanup costs, the Department of Defense has to continue with these motions because the Federal Government requires them to.
Many agencies believe the government is not working as fast as it should on PFAS contamination. EPA announced a lot of actions at the start of this year, but Congress has not given a response to a lot of the changes that were supposed to strengthen regulation around PFAS contamination.
EWG is committed to performing tests all over the country to bring a clear picture of the issue in front of everyone. Recent water sample tests from various locations around the country were very eye-opening.
Regions like Brunswick Country in North Carolina and Quad Cities in Iowa had the highest levels of PFAS in tap water with 185.9ppt and 109.9ppt, respectively.
There were some alarming revelations from these tests. PFOA chemicals, considered the most dangerous, were present in more than 68% of the agency tested samples.
This shows you the sad state of drinking water from around the country. There are many states and locations where PFAS-contaminated groundwater is quite close to dangerously high.
The first thing you must know about these chemicals is that humans invented them. One of the reasons they are so prevalent and hard to avoid is that they are used in manufacturing hundreds and thousands of different products.
These chemicals are dangerous because their degradation process is extremely slow, earning them the name forever chemicals.
Their existence is not limited to drinking water or groundwater. You can find them in your foods and even soil. The one concerning thing is that these aren’t just 2 or 3 types of compounds.
There are more than 3000 compounds that make up the structure of this family. The main heads of the PFAS family are polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances.
To know their structure, you first must understand that each group is based on a chain of carbon atoms. Moreover, their name comes from how the fluorine atoms are linked to the carbon atoms on those chains.
When fluorine atoms consistently stick to almost every carbon atom, you are looking at the perfluoroalkyl substances. If only a few fluorine atoms are attached to the chain, you look at poly-fluoroalkyl implications.
Talk about firefighting foams, coatings with non-stick nature, etc., and this structure makes the substance of perfect use in all of those products. In the firefighting foam, the meaning takes on fire and helps extinguish it faster.
When it comes to the toxicity of these chemicals, perfluorinated compounds are much more dangerous than their polyfluorinated counterparts.
EPA and other agencies have tried and exposed widespread toxic pollution, but their attempts are marred by the fact that all the big companies use these chemicals in making their products. In other words, their influence keeps specific regulatory actions from happening.
The groundwater contamination due to these chemicals has resulted in a scenario in which almost all humans and animals on earth now have some level of PFAs chemicals in their bodies.
Many military bases have confirmed the contamination with PFAS or are suspected of having high levels of PFAS in drinking water and groundwater sources.
There are hundreds of military bases that have contaminated water on the ground. Just in California, 62 military facilities may be releasing PFAS chemicals.
You have to know that the DOD (Department of Defense) looks specifically for PFOA and PFOS contamination because they are the most commonly found and yet the most dangerous.
The defense department of veterans affairs has been under fire for not openly telling the public about its bases that have PFAS-contaminated water. The number of bases with the suspected release is increasing.
A larger part of contamination comes from using AFFF or aqueous film-forming foam, which is used profusely for extinguishing fires. Most agencies directly connect toxic exposure to the use of AFFF by the military.
The lifetime health advisory of the Environmental Protection Agency has a set standard of how much PFAS chemicals are acceptable in the water, and it seems, according to new data, that there are around 600 bases with much higher levels than permissible.
There could still be more bases with the known or suspected releases. But the numbers are only becoming truly public now. The phasing out of sprayed soapy chemicals has only stopped further contamination, but it hasn’t done anything about the damage already done.
The DOD has released its own data on military sites with high PFOA and PFOS levels. Here are some military areas with extremely high levels of toxic chemicals.
According to the department, these sites have higher PFOA and PFOS levels than federally set boundaries and state enforceable levels.
Americans must not forget that these toxic substances can result in congenital disabilities that transfer from generation to generation.
The recently quoted and shockingly high number of 600 bases with toxic chemicals was still not a complete disclosure of the situation. Investigations and testing by environmental protection agencies show there could be more than 700 bases of poisonous exposure to people. This is due to the use of items containing PFAS and other chemicals that can potentially harm drinking water.
You can visit this page from CDC if you want to know about the adverse health effects of these toxic compounds. The Centers for Disease Control, however, does believe more research is needed to know the exact impact of PFAS on the human body and their extent.
According to a recent article by The Guardian, nearly 12 military installations don’t just have contaminated water; they are releasing it into other primary water supplies leading to public households.
Until now, neither the defense department nor any other agencies talked about this. However, families living in these areas with their loved ones who have spent their lives in military service are now coming to the public’s view and telling horrible stories of human health being compromised by the military.
People living around these sites have to quickly choose alternatives like bottled water to avoid drinking water that has toxic material remains. The drinking water around these military installations is a stark violation of the safe drinking water act.
According to Pentagon officials, the cleanup costs of these compounds around the country could go well beyond $2 billion. The DoD is doing investigations and cleanup on its part, but the efforts seem meager looking at the number of military installations with toxic materials in water.
Whether it’s the air force, navy, or army, they are now dealing with both the pollution of water on their bases and the public reaction. The new big stigma on the military’s performance regarding PFAS contamination is releasing this water into agricultural water supplies.
EWG has discovered that many communities where farmers use contaminated water aren’t even aware of the problem.
When EWG looked into the military records, it found that many bases could pollute irrigation water. According to EWG, twenty-one hundred farms are compromised because of water contamination.
The Group has made the most shocking revelation by bringing to light that many air force, army, and navy bases have unacceptably high contaminations around them. Still, none of the surrounding off-base community knows about it.
The 36 military installations with such a high level of PFAS being released into irrigation water without any notice to the surrounding communities and farmers are in the following states (the digit with the state name shows the number of bases).
Wisconsin, Virginia, Vermont, Utah, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, Florida, Delaware, Colorado, California, and Alaska each has at least one base with highly high PFAS levels. You can find out the names of the bases in this table from EWG.
Any active military training base with reports of high levels of PFAS in water should inform the surrounding community. If the military base doesn’t do that, it puts the integrity of army officials at risk.
In addition to active installations, the agencies working for the environment and human rights should investigate other shuttered military bases to know the presence of contaminated drinking water around them.
The discoveries of compromised agricultural lands put the army under even more pressure. Many felt the Navy and Marine Corps team began investigating the matter only when the information became public. This was true, even though they knew PFAS had contaminated wells, drinking water sources, etc. The military does not have much to its defense.
In such scenarios, as the DoD continues to observe silence, it would be better if military personnel exposed this mystery themselves. However, this could open a new box of secrets that will only shock the public even more. EWG systematically tracked toxic exposures, but it seems that the military poured toxic substances into streams of water without ever feeling the need to investigate these cancer-causing chemicals. The DOD needs to ramp up cleanup operations to show its love for the people and defense of the environment.
In all of this, one must not forget that those who have served in the Marines are at the highest risk of exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals and sporadic blood disorders. From breast cancer to bladder cancer, a military base with PFAS contamination might have already caused damage to many marine corps and other heroes of the nation.
Have you worked in the army? Do you think your cancer may be related to your service in the military after knowing how many military sites have incredibly high PFOA and PFOS levels in water? If that’s the case, you can qualify for certain disability benefits, but you will have to prove a connection between your condition and your service in the army.
The son of the brave Sgt. Paul Ehline, Michael Ehline, is doing everything in his reach to help retired army veterans get the help they deserve. Michael is busy spreading awareness about the veterans’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals during their years of service. His motive is to get as many people involved in this cause as possible and encourage people to donate to these army officials.
Recently, his father, a marine, died, and Michael quickly invited many other unsung marine corps heroes to join him in the annual motorcycle ride for Sergeant Paul Ehline. The latter dedicated his life to fighting for his country and actively served in the marine corps during Vietnam War.
By spreading awareness and putting veterans with cancer in contact with the right people who can help, Michael Ehline is showing his love and passion for those who need justice.
Michael Ehline is all about helping the heroes of the military and the general public. He helps veterans by spreading awareness about their war and service-related medical conditions, getting them help in the form of donations, and putting them in touch with the people who can help them with their cases.
Additionally, he works for public safety by providing people with personal injury representation, mainly those arising from motorcycle accidents. Get in touch with him if you or someone you know needs a personal injury lawyer.
Donations submitted through donation forms on PaulEhlineRide.Org are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by U.S. and state laws. These will be in U.S. Federal Reserve Notes. Paul Ehline Memorial Ride™ is a U.S. nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable Section 501(c)(19) organization that benefits US Armed Forces veterans under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. (Tax identification number 85-4040563.)