Home   >   Our Official Blog  >  Cancer-Causing Chemicals from Firefighting Foam Found in Drinking Water at 108 U.S. Military Sites

Cancer-Causing Chemicals from Firefighting Foam Found in Drinking Water at 108 U.S. Military Sites

By Treven Pyles

Posted on November 07th, 2019

According to the Department of Defense (DoD) data obtained by the environmental advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG) under the Freedom of Information Act, currently, 108 installations have drinking water contaminated by PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

Drinking water contamination from the aqueous firefighting foam (AFFF) at these sites was found to be at levels higher than the EPA's lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. Also, the new data from DoD raises the total number of contaminated military installations from 207 to 297. The tests at the military sites were conducted between 2016 and this year by government contractors. EWG has charted and shared the top 100 military sites with the highest PFAS concentrations.

Bases Contaminated with PFAS Chemicals

The contaminated sites include military installations where thousands of military families live and work.

  • According to EWG, PFAS contamination levels in at least one groundwater source topped 1 million ppt at 13 sites, in California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
  • Also, the highest known detection was 20.7 million ppt of PFHxS, a fluorinated chemical, found in 2016 at England Air Force Base, in Louisiana.
  • Military Times informs that Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, sits at the top of the list of contaminated installations, with 10 different types of PFAS, totaling 4,022 parts per trillion.
  • The Guard's Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California, and Belmont Armory, Michigan are the no. 2 and 3 most-contaminated sites.
  • 73 installations on the list are Guard facilities, including training areas, armories, and readiness centers.

In addition, at many bases, PFAS are suspected of contaminating the community water supply. Records show that PFAS have been detected outside the boundaries of military installations, in private wells or public water systems. But the DoD cannot say how many civilian water sources they've polluted or who will pay for it because they have conducted only limited testing off base. Regulators and EWG warn that due to the slow-paced testing, many people are left drinking unsafe water.

As DoD investigates the problem, the number of military facilities contaminated with PFAS found in AFFF is expected to rise.

What Are PFAS Chemicals

PFAS are a group of synthetic substances with the superior strength of withstanding extreme environments, which made them useful in products such as the firefighting foam or in waterproofing. However, they can end up being consumed by people through drinking water or eating other exposed organisms. The chance of human exposure is heightened because PFAS are persistent and move through the environment, traveling far from their source.

PFAS exposure is associated with a variety of health impacts, including cancer, and problems with the reproductive- and immune systems:

  • Testicular and kidney cancer
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Damage to the liver
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • High risk of thyroid disease
  • High risk of asthma diagnosis
  • Increased risk of infertility
  • Decreased antibody response to vaccines
  • Minor decreases in birth weight

Call a Toxic Exposure Attorney

Firefighters and Army personnel are already asked to put themselves in harm's way virtually every day. Forcing them to use toxic AFFF and exposing them to drinking water containing dangerous chemicals puts their long-term health at unacceptable risk.

If you're visiting our website because you suspect PFAS contamination is threatening your water supply, we can help. We've been practicing law for over 22 years. In fact, we've helped many clients injured by exposure to toxic chemicals. We've done that through hard work, being honest and continuing to educate ourselves about toxic exposure.