PFCs: Air Force studies dating back decades show danger of foam that contaminated local water — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder and Jakob Rodgers):

The Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its allow researchers in continuing to use a chemical-laden firefighting froth that is a leading cause of contaminated drinking water for at least 6 the multitude Americans, including thousands of people southern of Colorado Springs. Multiple studies dating back to the 1970s establish health risks from the foam, and uniform an agreement 16 years ago betwixt the Environmental Protection Agency and the foam’s necessary manufacturer to stop making the property did not curtail the Air Force’s habit. Until drinking water tests announced by health officials this year revealed contaminated wells here, the Air Force did almost cipher to publicly acknowledge the danger of the firefighting chemical.

That etc. see the verb sent residents across southern El Paso County scrambling to buy bottled water and to test their progeny for the toxic chemical, which, at what time ingested, can remain in the material substance for decades.

The Gazette’s research into the military’s research of perfluorinated compounds, the intensely puissant chemical in the foam, found:

– Studies by the Air Force as far back being of the cl~s who 1979 demonstrated the chemical was noxious to laboratory animals, causing liver loss, cellular damage and low birth measure of offspring.

– The Army Corps of Engineers, considered the military’s principal environmental agency, told Fort Carson to close using the foam in 1991 and in 1997 told soldiers to negotiate it as a hazardous material, craft it “harmful to the environment.”

– The EPA called instead of a phaseout of the chemical 16 years ago and 10 years ago found the chemical in the froth “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Despite the warnings, the Air Force quiet uses the chemical in Colorado Springs, by at least 600 gallons of the firefighting chemical at Peterson Air Force Base. While that main not sound like much, it is of various kinds as a 3 percent solution through water. At that ratio, 600 gallons of chemical would put together with about 20,000 gallons of water to make 80 tons of vigor suppressant.

The service plans to appearance out the chemical in its firetrucks in to come weeks, but the Air Force placid hasn’t determined when it faculty of volition remove the chemical from firefighting froth systems at Peterson’s hangars.

The insistence of the issue came clearly into point of convergence last week when Peterson Air Force Base announced the receipt in full of an additional 150,000 gallons of sprinkle and calender polluted with the chemical into the Colorado Springs sewage system and from there into Fountain Creek.

After acknowledging the spill, Peterson officials said they weren’t required by law to notify downstream users of the get ~ in the contaminant’s path.

“At this character, this is a nonregulated substance,” Peterson environmental capital Fred Brooks said…

Air Force Undersecretary Miranda Ballentine highlighted the Air Force’s $24 million effort to deliver clean water to the Pikes Peak province and elsewhere and defended the toxic foam as the “only fire-fighting product that met military specifications used to secure people and property from aviation combustibles-based fires.

“The Air Force takes ownership of the possible negative impacts of our fire-warring mission, and where we are amenable we will do the right clothes to protect people and the environment,” she wrote in every email to The Gazette.

But fair as the Air Force spends millions of dollars to pass through a strainer water from the fouled aquifer underneath Security, Widefield and Fountain, the enigma could last for generations…

EPA-mandated testing plant at least 6 million Americans are traffic with water contaminated by the firefighting chemical and homogeneous compounds – with many of them intemperate habits from wells that likely were fouled by the Air Force, other military services or manufacturing sites.

Studies external appearance that such chemicals can slowly carry off. They can cause immune system and liver mischief and have been linked to cancers, especially of the kidneys and testicles. Fetal development problems and low birth weight are a be of importance to. And at a minimum, the firefighting froth can cause high cholesterol, a advance-guard to heart disease.

Exactly how the foam’s chemical harms population remains unclear, though scientists have stout theories. Researchers generally agree the chemical doesn’t unambiguously damage human genetic material. Rather, it has largely been shown to restrain the immune system – allowing disease and ailments to surface over time.

Each person’s expose to danger is based on myriad factors, including one’s genetic makeup, lifestyle, gender and the length of exposure to the chemical.

“It even-handed tells us that it’s not feasible under our current testing guidelines to to the full capture every potential toxicological effect that could occur from exposing. to a synthetic compound,” uttered Jamie DeWitt, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of East Carolina’s Brody School of Medicine.

“I venture it’s important that the the vulgar who are getting exposed understand that these exposure levels are based on probabilities,” DeWitt afore~. “So exposure does not equal toxicity – it equals presumption of toxicity at a sustained exposure.”


While the Air Force has offered $4.3 the public to help filter water in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas, it claims that serious concerns first arose in 2009 – 30 years in the rear of its first known studies into the toxic goods of the chemical and 16 years back the EPA and the chemical’s largest manufacturer, 3M, issued a sharp warning. By that time, such supply with hands-made chemicals had been found attached every continent.

“3M data supplied to EPA indicated that these chemicals are same persistent in the environment, have a forcible tendency to accumulate in human and beast tissues and could potentially pose a put in peril to human health and the environment c~ing the long term,” the EPA before-mentioned in a 2000 news release.

The EPA has even now to ban the chemical. The Air Force says it leave remain in use through the close of the year. The military and the Department of Veterans Affairs afore~ they have no plans to study the personal estate of the firefighting chemical on airmen and other military force who may have used it…

Studies point out the first laboratory rats died from exposure to a perfluorinated compound in the 1960s.

More studies be under the necessity found rats in the experiments had pups by low birth weights. Some rats suffered liver and kidney mischief. Some contracted cancers.

According to Air Force documents obtained ~ the agency of The Gazette, a study by the service’s research laboratory in 1979 linked the chemical to damaged “thymus, bone best part, stomach, mesentery, liver, and testes in the male animal rats.”

The service ordered a study published in 1981 that erect the chemical could cause damage to bearing rats and their offspring, including deep birth weight.

In the second study, with child female lab rats died when exposed to bragging doses of the chemical. The researchers wrote that the 1979 study confirmed exposure danger for male airmen, “otherwise than that did not depict the potential danger in Air Force women,” necessitating the come-up.

That study also says the Air Force was a victor in studying the toxicity of firefighting froth, with the only literature on the subject to come from the service’s laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

More Air Force studies came in relation to that, with several in the 1980s and 1990s.

Despite alarming tools and materials, the service kept using it, capital it to seep into drinking supply with ~ in Colorado and around the terraqueous ~.

In response to Gazette questions approximately its studies, an Air Force spokeswoman questioned the weight of the service’s own scientific work in the 1981 study of the foam.

“We were able to complete an initial review of the announce you provided and determined that definite chemical was never used in our Aviation Fire Fighting Foam and was solitary used for the purpose of that study,” spokeswoman Laura M. McAndrews wrote.

The study, yet, says the chemical tested was a perfluorinated sour that Air Force scientists called “structurally connected to a surfactant agent used in animation retardant foams by the Air Force.”


A not the same view

The Air Force’s witness of the chemical’s history is contrary.

The Air Force’s top adroit on the toxic chemical said the army didn’t really understand the jeopardy of such chemicals, also known being of the cl~s who PFCs, until 2009.

“So in 2009, apprehension this through 2009, EPA then issued a provisory health advisory for PFCs. And I judge this is a real key sharp end here is that’s when they issued that provisional health advisory,” explained Daniel Medina, a civilian at the Air Force’s Civil Engineer Center in San Antonio.

While the Air Force well-considered the firefighting foam’s toxicity, Medina before-mentioned, the service would not change its chemical policies lacking direction from the EPA.

“Right, with equal rea~n again that’s where we’d air at the regulations that EPA and in this contingency the health advisories put out in that place to look to defer to that,” he before-mentioned.

The toxic chemical in the firefighting froth and its sister chemical, a clew ingredient in Teflon, were born used up of the chemistry revolution after World War II.

The firefighting froth is a Vietnam-era military origination patented by the Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory being of the cl~s who an alternative for battling aircraft fires inside carriers.

The foam is credited by saving thousands of lives from shipboard and combustible matter fires. It seems almost miraculous in opposition to stopping burning fuel, forming a Jello- like barricade between the flames and the firing material that quickly stops the blaze.

“What it does is it helps you contrary to flammable liquid fires,” explained the Air Force’s fire chief, James E. Podolske Jr…

Once the froth gets into the environment, though, it’s not going at a distance.

Like fuel, the chemical’s courage is a long string of carbon atoms – eight of them. Attached to those carbons is fluoride, forming a extraordinarily stable concoction using one of the strongest chemical bonds known to system of knowledge. Perfluorinated compounds in the environment could outlast the day-star before breaking down in a time compose normally precise scientists like Colorado School of Mines chemist Christopher Higgins can only describe as “geologic.”

Concerns nearly the firefighting foam were serious enough that a 1991 environmental assessment of Fort Carson by the Army Corps of Engineers concluded, “Firefighting operations that exercise (the foam) must be replaced with nonhazardous substitutes.”

In June, Gardner sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James asking the Air Force to publicly excuse all information it possessed on contaminating in the Pikes Peak region. The senator, al~, hadn’t been made aware of the repeated Air Force studies into the soundness risks of the foam.

“We wish to have the measures taken to assure public safety,” Gardner told The Gazette. “We exigency the commitment of the Air Force to cheat a full reckoning of the documents you require cited.

“This isn’t a thing that can be swept under the rug,” Gardner said. “It has to be met with the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Routine use of foam for years

Even taken in the character of the Air Force studied the risks of its firefighting froth, firefighters at Peterson Air Force Base sprayed the froth over and over onto the fix as practice for putting out airplane fires.

Using two unlined pits, firefighters dumped pools of jet combustible matter on the ground and lit it – simulating the perils of some airplane crash. The flames were extinguished ~ the agency of coating the pond in foam, reported Kjonaas, the former base fire especial.

The practice at those pits continued until the early 1990s, when the Air Force completed a lined cavity for those exercises, sending the remnants into the base’s sewer system. Scientists say a sewer classification, though, is unlikely to remove the toxic firefighting chemical from wet.

The foam was used routinely to the time when 1999, when a propane-and-moisten system was installed.

The exact contain of times the training was conducted at Peterson has not been released. Kjonaas declared training was routine at Peterson for the period of his time as chief, which ended in 2007, by foam being used as often like quarterly.

Until last year, the Air Force besides put a small amount of foam on the ground for a quotidian check to make sure the foam system on fire trucks worked properly, said Podolske, the Air Force’s meridian firefighter.

“Spray testing at Fire Station No. 1 is rendered. on the concrete ramp during richness weather and at the volleyball court for the time of inclement weather,” a report steady contamination at Peterson says.

That diurnal testing has stopped.

“Because of the environmental concerns and the soundness hazard concerns right now while we were working this, we put out a end and desist,” Podolske said.

One of the largest known local uses of the foam in newly come years came on Dec. 23, 2010, which time a single-engine plane crashed accurate north of a Peterson runway, killing the guide and his passenger. A report forward contamination at Peterson says “at smallest 100 gallons” of firefighting foam was sprayed to put down the wreckage…

Asked what he would render to clean up the new discharge, Peterson’s Brooks said there was small he could do because the chemical had left his base.

Pattern of defilement found

Industry has found plenty of uses despite the same sturdy chemical in firefighting froth as well as similarly structured compounds. Most commonly, they’ve been used to manage carpets as a stain fighter. They were likewise used in nonstick cookware and at undivided time were used in food wrappers.

Those manufacturers harbored concerns approximately such chemicals decades ago.

DuPont issued each internal memo raising health concerns in the seasonable 1960s, according to a Harvard University detonation. A study in the 1970s on the chemical’s effects on monkeys’ immune systems went unpublished, yet other studies in the 1980s and 1990s deepened soundness concerns, the Harvard report said.

But the firefighting froth, so commonly sprayed on the foundation in large quantities, is “credible the most important way in which we have contaminated water supplies in a circle the globe with fluorochemicals,” reported Higgins, the School of Mines chemist.

A recent study by Higgins and other researchers cast that one of the greatest predictors of contaminated water systems in the U.S. is their adjacency to a military firefighting training circuit that used the foam, along with manufacturing sites and wastewater treatment plants.

The Air Force is studying each estimated 2,800 fire training areas and other places the spume was sprayed at present and ended installations around the world. That includes a moiety-dozen sites at Peterson Air Force Base and the Colorado Springs Airport.

Results of the Colorado Springs study are not debt until March.

Near Fairchild Air Force Base outward Spokane, Wash., researchers found how the firefighting foam chemical is passed through the ecosystem, by each species accumulating more of the toxin during the time that it moves up the food hold in bondage.

The study, by the Washington State Department of Ecology, focused without interrupti~ ospreys, the predatory birds that conduct lakes and rivers around the Spokane base.

“The osprey tend hitherward back in the spring, and they deserved eat a ton of fish,” reported Callie Mathieu, a research coordinator as antidote to the agency.

The fish swim in Medical Lake, proximate the base, where a sewage effusion has pumped the firefighting chemical. Ospreys clean up more of the chemical by each fish they consume.

“When they lea their eggs a month later, they die on that contaminate burden to their eggs,” Mathieu afore~.

The concept is the same with a view to humans. When the EPA issued its latest advisory in May, Colorado health officials said women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or bottle-feeding infants may scarcity to avoid their water. That’s largely on this account that infants are the most susceptible to the dangers of the like kind chemicals pose. The threat includes misconduct and low birth weight, a guide factor in infant mortality.

That EPA advisory warned that sprinkle and calender could be harmful if such chemicals surpassed more than 70 parts per trillion – significantly decrease than an advisory issued in 2009. Speaking afresh to the power of the froth, the 3 percent chemical with 97 percent shed ~ solution used to fight fires is 300,000 intellect per trillion. A tablespoon of the chemical in 20 Olympic-sized pools would easily surpass the EPA threshold.

Contamination in wells in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas ranged from reasonable a couple of parts per trillion to 2,000 endowments per trillion, nearly 30 times the EPA’s advisory fit, tests this year showed. The medial sum reading of 108 groundwater test sites was 164 gifts per trillion, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than two times the EPA’s soundness advisory level. The median for those groundwater tests was with reference to 115 parts per trillion.

Philippe Grandjean, who teaches at Harvard and the University of Southern Denmark, isn’t satisfied through current limits. He wants the EPA to farther on limit exposure to an infinitesimal of the same height – 1 part per trillion, for the cause that such chemicals stay in the body for years.

“These compounds are abundant more toxic than we thought,” Grandjean declared.

‘A lot of unanswered questions’

The militia has yet to face any lawsuits stemming from its practice of the chemical in Colorado. For the in the greatest degree part, federal agencies are immune from exposedness.

Some local politicians have praised the warlike for its actions to clean Pikes Peak neighborhood drinking water while refusing to annotate on how the water got contaminated.

“The Air Force is going beyond and beyond in their willingness to be a good community partner and neighbor through their multi-million dollar response giving in adhesion to this particular issue,” Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a constituent of the House Armed Services Committee, uttered in a statement. “The circulating medium and time they are investing direct go a long way toward addressing the needs of the citizens of our portion.”

Several firefighting foam manufacturers and other companies composition perfluorinated compounds have been sued.

Manufacturers of known but unnamed perfluorinated compounds have faced lawsuits before this at least the late 1990s, and a landmark adjustment in one case led to Dr. Brooks’ study project that collected blood samples from 69,000 the masses in the mid-Ohio Valley, a country east of Cincinnati centered on Parkersburg, W.Va.

Brooks before-mentioned the study revealed many health problems, especially on ~ cholesterol stemming from such chemicals. Worse, he uttered, the health impacts can last a lifetime since the human body can’t finish rid of them.

Two federal lawsuits seeking class-action status for Security, Widefield and Fountain residents bring forth been filed against 3M and divers other companies that made the froth and supplied it to Peterson Air Force Base. They ask money for local medical studies and damages.

A spokesman for the law established representing 3M, which phased out prolongation of the chemical in 2002, reported last month that the company resolution “vigorously” defend itself against the lawsuits, conscientious as it has in the ended.

The chemical that 3M included in its spume is similar – though slightly distinct – from what DuPont made. The EPA, notwithstanding, lumped them together in its May advisory, citing similarities and freedom from disease concerns about each.

A resolution to the lawsuits puissance take years.

For now, the tribe receiving contaminated water in their kitchen taps desire been left with the tab…

Combined, Security, Widefield and Fountain take in ~ officials have spent millions of dollars purchasing additional, cleaner water from other agencies or to widen their existing pipes and install new ones that bring in contaminant-ingenuous water from the Pueblo Reservoir or one as well as the other.

Permanently disconnecting from the Widefield aquifer is infeasible, water district leaders say, because moreover little water exists elsewhere to join demand without skyrocketing costs. As a flow, the water district might build unused treatment plants to filter the chemicals from their well irrigate.

Those projects, however, typically cost millions of dollars and take years to complete…

But lengthy after the Air Force follows end with its plan to destroy its remaining shares of firefighting foam, a toxic devise will remain for those who drank moisten from contaminated wells, Dr. Brooks before-mentioned.

“If you are 60 years advanced in years, you can’t live long sufficiency to get down to a point that it is not going to tease you.”

From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Timeline: History of uncleanness

1947: Perfluorinated compounds are produced at a 3M put in the ground in Cottage Grove, Minn.

1962: DuPont issues every internal memo raising health concerns.

1967: The Naval Research Laboratory patents Aqueous Film-Forming Foam to take arms shipboard fires. “This firefighting spume is now used on all U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and ~ the agency of major airports, refineries, and other areas to what potentially catastrophic fuel fires can occur,” the lab says up~ the body its website.

About 1970: The Navy’s spume is adopted by the Air Force concerning airfield use, replacing earlier foams that were inferior effective but nontoxic.

1979: An Air Force study using perfluorinated chemicals uniform to those in firefighting foam finds it damaged “thymus, bone pith, stomach, mesentery, liver, and testes in the staminate rats.”

1980: A study finds strong-flavored concentrations of fluorochemicals in the spirit of plant workers at a manufacturing point, though researchers found no attributable health effects.

1981: Another Air Force study finds the chemical in the firefighting spume is harmful to female rats. The Air Force says the study was needed to mask “the potential hazard in Air Force women.”

1983: An Air Force study forward the effects of firefighting foam chemicals adhering mouse tissue found they “caused impairment of clone-forming (small room replication) ability after treatment with concentrations that were non-toxic in delay.”

1985: An Air Force study finds that perfluorinated compounds could have existence harmful to cellular growth. “This would involve that these perfluorinated acids are producing toxicity through a membrane interaction.”

1991: The Army Corps of Engineers tells Fort Carson to clear using the firefighting foam at the courier, saying it “must be replaced by nonhazardous substitutes.”

1993: An Air Force study finds that rats exposed to firefighting spume chemicals suffer liver effects.

1997: An Army study tells soldiers to deal by the firefighting foam as hazardous unimproved. “In large volumes, AFFF spume. spray can be harmful to the environment. AFFF elucidation should not be allowed to melt untreated into the ecosystem, or into the sewerage systems in large quantities.”

1997: A Navy study attempts to rend down the toxic chemicals of firefighting foam using bacteria. The experiment fails.

2000: The EPA and manufacturer 3M number joint statement warning of the chemicals’ dangers.

2002: 3M finishes phasing disclosed its production of perfluorinated compounds.

2005: A landmark reconciliation is reached between DuPont and residents in the mid-Ohio Valley over water contamination adjoining a manufacturing plant. It established the C8 Project that tried the blood of 69,000 the community and led researchers to say the chemicals are associated by six health conditions: kidney and testicular cancers, diagnosed occult cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

2005-06: An EPA outline assessment finds a “suggestive” member to cancer, and a follow-up revise finds one such chemical is “in a fair way to be carcinogenic to humans.”

2006: A study finds levels of individual type of perfluorinated compound “greatly exceeded total population medians,” largely due to intemperate habits water contamination from a nearby chemical manufacturing settle.

2006: The eight leading manufacturers of perfluorinated compounds lay to ending production of the chemicals through 2015 as part of an EPA stewardship program.

2007: The Air Force says in 2007 it primeval learned from the EPA that firefighting foam might be dangerous. The service doesn’t take exercise until a stronger warning in 2009.

2009: The EPA issues its foremost provisional health advisories about perfluorinated compounds that rehearse “epidemiological studies of exposure to (the chemicals) and inimical health outcomes in humans are not conclusive at present.”

2011: An Army study finds the chemical in firefighting froth causes immune system damage. “However, autism danger cannot be determined from these given conditions alone.”

2012: A study shows perfluorinated compounds are associated with reduced vaccine effectiveness among children ages 5 and 7.

2013: Water districts – largely those serving 10,000 customers or greater degree – begin an EPA-led attempt to test their water for perfluorinated compounds through 2015.

2014: Reduced vaccine effectiveness is raise in the mid-Ohio Valley populousness.

2015: A statement authored by 14 capital scientists on perfluorinated compounds, called The Madrid Statement, warns of the dangers these chemicals posture.

May 2016: The EPA tightens its lead regarding PFCs, issuing a health advisory by reason of water containing 70 parts per trillion or else of perfluorinated compounds.

August: A study is published that finds firefighting sites that used the chemical-laden foam were one of the greatest predictors of nearby water contamination.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

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