The Pentagon has
identified over 400
which may have
states the GAO.
The American Spark
Pentagon Fire-Fighting Foam Contains Cancer-Causing Chemicals
By Cliff Montgomery - Sept. 30th, 2018
“As of August 2017, DOD [Department Of Defense] had identified 401 active or closed military installations
with known or suspected releases” of potentially dangerous chemicals which “could cause increased cancer
risk and other health issues in humans, ” according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report
quietly released on Wednesday.
“DOD has used firefighting foam containing” these chemicals “since the 1970s to quickly extinguish fires and
ensure they do not re-ignite. EPA has found elevated levels” of these harmful chemicals “in drinking water
across the United States, including in drinking water at or near DOD installations,” added the study.
Below, the American Spark offers pertinent quotes from the ‘Highlights’ of this GAO report:
Why GAO Did This Study
“According to health experts, exposure to elevated levels of PFOS [perfluorooctane sulfonate] and PFOA
[perfluorooctanoic acid] could cause increased cancer risk and other health issues in humans.
“DOD has used firefighting foam containing PFOS, PFOA, and other PFAS [per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances] since the 1970s to quickly extinguish fires and ensure they do not re-ignite. EPA has found
elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water across the United States, including in drinking water at
or near DOD installations.
“This statement provides information on actions DOD has taken to address elevated levels of PFOS and
PFOA in drinking water at or near military installations and to address concerns with firefighting foam.
What GAO Found
“GAO reported in October 2017 that the Department of Defense (DOD) had initiated actions to address
elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water at
or near military installations.
“PFOS and PFOA are part of a larger class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),
which can be found in firefighting foam used by DOD.
“In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued non-enforceable drinking water health
advisories for those two chemicals. Health advisories include recommended levels of contaminants that can
be present in drinking water at which adverse health effects are not anticipated to occur over specific
“In response to those health advisories, DOD’s military departments directed their military installations to (1)
identify locations with a known or suspected release of PFOS and PFOA and address any releases that pose
a risk to human health, which can include people living outside DOD installations, and (2) test for PFOS and
PFOA in installation drinking water and address any contamination above the levels in EPA’s health advisories.
- As of August 2017, DOD had identified 401 active or closed military installations with known or
suspected releases of PFOS or PFOA.
- The military departments had reported spending approximately $200 million at or near 263 installations
for environmental investigations and responses related to PFOS and PFOA, as of December 2016.
According to DOD, it may take several years for the department to determine how much it will cost to
clean up PFOS and PFOA contamination at or near its military installations.
- DOD reported taking actions (such as providing alternative drinking water and installing treatment
systems) as of August 2017 to address PFOS and PFOA levels exceeding those recommended in
EPA’s health advisories for drinking water for people (1) on 13 military installations in the United States
and (2) outside 22 military installations in the United States.
“In addition to actions initiated by DOD, GAO reported in October 2017 that the department also had received
and responded to four orders from EPA and state regulators that required DOD to address PFOS and PFOA
levels that exceeded EPA’s health advisory levels for drinking water at or near four installations.
“GAO also reported in October 2017 that DOD was taking steps to address health and environmental
concerns with its use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS. These steps included restricting the use of
existing foams that contain PFAS; testing foams to identify the amount of PFAS they contain; and funding
research on developing PFAS-free foam that can meet DOD’s performance requirements, which specify how
long it should take for foam to extinguish a fire and keep it from re-igniting.
“In a June 2018 report to Congress, DOD stated that no commercially available PFAS-free foam has met
DOD’s performance requirements and that research to develop such a PFAS-free foam is ongoing.”
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