Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), announced this move through a letter to Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA). He told the congresswoman that the public health agency plans to reevaluate health risks related to drinking water at the former Army base.
"There is sufficient data and scientific reasons for ATSDR to reevaluate health risks related to historical drinking water exposures at Ford Ord," Breysse wrote.
Porter previously asked for the probe following a February 2022 report by the Associated Press (AP) about cancer rates among former occupants of the military post. According to the AP, authorities downplayed the potential health risks there – even though at least 40 dangerous chemicals were detected in water samples taken from the base.
Fort Ord was in use between 1917 and 1994, with nearly a thousand soldiers stationed there in the last two decades of its operation. Those who stayed there later developed rare, terminal blood cancers – including 50-year-old Army veteran Julie Akey. First deployed at Fort Ord in 1996 at age 25, she was later diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2016.
Akey, whose family does not have a history of cancer, drank water from the base and even grew vegetables there, unaware the toxins in the water would contribute to her cancer diagnosis two decades later.
She applied for assistance at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but was denied of aid just like other members of the military. Akey ended up working at an airport while recovering from a bone marrow transplant.
As of writing, the military has only acknowledged contamination leading to cancer at one site: Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The base was also plagued with water contamination problems that exposed millions of service members, family members and other individuals to toxic chemicals for decades. (Related: FLASHBACK: EPA wasted millions of dollars without even cleaning toxic pollution site, N.C. residents complain.)
According to About Lawsuits, more than one million Marines and their family members were exposed to the base's contaminated water between the early 1950s and late 1980s.
Some reports even suggested that toxic chemicals from Camp Lejeune may be responsible for more than 50,000 cases of breast cancer, 28,000 cases of bladder cancer and 24,000 cases of renal cancer, as well as thousands of cases, involving Parkinson's disease and other health complications. It is also believed that water from the now-defunct Marines base caused birth defects and the wrongful death of thousands of unborn children.
Independent news organization Truthout released a report early this month that highlights the Camp Lejeune water contamination as one example of the problems at military bases throughout the country, which have routinely used and disposed of toxic chemicals in ways that negatively impacted those living and working on bases, as well as in the surrounding communities.
According to the report, those communities are far too often made up primarily of minorities, who have been left to deal with the long-term health risks resulting from the water contamination. The report said hazardous chemicals affecting the camp and the surrounding communities include trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene, vinyl chloride, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Truthout also reported that there are more than 700 Army bases across the country linked to extensive toxic chemical contamination and nearly 45 percent of the neighborhoods and communities within a 1.8-mile radius of bases linked to toxic water, soil and air contamination are communities of color.
Visit CancerCauses.news for more about cancer-causing chemicals.
Watch Harrison Smith talk about tap water contamination on "The American Journal" show below.
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