Carcinogens found at Montana nuclear missile base as nearby cancer cases rise.

Carcinogens found at Montana nuclear missile base as nearby cancer cases rise.

Investigation Uncovers Unsafe Levels of Carcinogen at Montana Nuclear Missile Base

An investigation into the high number of cancers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana has recently uncovered unsafe levels of a likely carcinogen. This discovery sheds light on a concerning trend and raises important questions about the safety of those working and living in close proximity to nuclear missile bases.

The Connection Between Cancer and Launch Control Centers

The investigation has revealed that the hundreds of cancer cases reported are most likely connected to the underground launch control centers at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Launch control centers are critical in the operation and maintenance of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and it is within these facilities that elevated levels of the potentially carcinogenic substance called Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were found.

The Significance of PCBs

PCBs are oily or waxy substances that were widely used in various industrial applications until their ban in 1979 due to their harmful effects on human health and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has categorized PCBs as a likely carcinogen. Exposure to PCBs has been linked to a variety of health issues, including cancer and other serious illnesses.

Concerns Raised by the Missile Community

The findings of this investigation mark an important milestone, as they represent the first extensive sampling of active U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile bases to address specific cancer concerns raised by the missile community. As a result, immediate measures are being taken to begin the cleanup process for the affected facilities and to mitigate potential exposure to hazardous conditions for the airmen and Guardians stationed at these bases.

The Alarming Statistics

The Torchlight Initiative, a grassroots group consisting of former missile launch officers and their surviving family members, has raised awareness about the prevalence of health issues among those who served at nuclear missile sites. According to the initiative, at least 268 people who served at the sites or their family members have been diagnosed with cancer, blood diseases, or other illnesses over several decades. Among these cases, there have been at least 217 cancers, including 33 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Considering that approximately 21,000 missileers have served since the early 1960s, the reported number of cases is alarming. The Associated Press reported that only a few hundred airmen serve as missileers each year at the three American silo-launched Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile bases.

To put these figures into perspective, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports around 403 new cancer cases per 100,000 people each year in the United States. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 19 cases per 100,000 people, according to the American Cancer Society. The concentration of cancer cases at these missile bases suggests a potential correlation with the working and living conditions unique to this environment.

Investigation Details and Future Steps

As part of the ongoing investigation, 300 surface swipe samples were obtained from Malmstrom Air Force Base. Of those samples, 21 were found to have detected PCBs, although 19 were below the EPA’s threshold levels. Two samples, however, exceeded the recommended limits. Air samples from Malmstrom did not yield any traces of PCBs.

Additional results from F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota are not yet available. It is essential to obtain water and soil sample results for all these bases to determine the comprehensive scope of the issue.

The Importance of Addressing the Issue

The discovery of unsafe levels of PCBs at Malmstrom Air Force Base highlights the significance of systematically evaluating the working and living conditions of those stationed at nuclear missile sites. The health and well-being of military personnel and their families should always be a priority, and concerted efforts must be made to identify and eliminate any potential risks associated with these environments.

As Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, has initiated immediate measures to address this issue, it is crucial to remain vigilant in monitoring the situation and executing proper cleanup and mitigation processes. By doing so, we can protect the brave men and women serving our country and ensure a safer future for all.