Our Unwillingness to deal with Hazardous Exposures Continues

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Training Sites contamination and Effects on Health

In the article below that appears in New York Times, we again see the delay in acknowledging Health Hazards.  When the Military has to get ready for war we expose populations to health hazards and push on to ready for war.  The same delay occurs after a war and identifying health hazards that our troops have experienced.  For Agent Orange it was at least 20 years. 

The bill that helped Agent Orange Veterans of Vietnam was finally done in 1991 at the same time we were then having our newest generation exposed in Operation Desert Storm returning home.  Now we still have not handled hazardous exposures in war, thus we see the denial and continued slow response to acknowledgement for the Desert Storm/Gulf War 1 (1990-91) exposures.

     

Instead of acknowledging before hand that we are going to have a problem and deploying resources to immediately grant benefits and provide care and including that cost to the war, we always have to come back after the fact.  History shows us that hazardous exposures impacts human health, evident in the hidden battles of the Atomic Veterans, Agent Orange Veterans, the civilians at contaminated military and military industrial sites from Utah to Nevada to Vieques, contaminated sites at nuclear sites and weapon storage sites.  WE leave military veterans and civilians to suffer health wise and deny and delay care that could help them.  WE leave them to battle their own government for acknowledgement and for health as their illnesses progress and they die. 

Years ago, I remember going toe to toe with a congressman from my own state when he was not getting on board to help gulf war veterans get help by signing on to a bill as a cosponsor.  He stated to me, I would have trouble getting my constituency back home to support this bill.  That encounter still echoes in my memory, how could he not support veterans that needed help and acknowledgement.  I knew he had veterans and citizens back home that love their veterans but I also knew that this silent majority knows there is a problem but lack the dollar power to exert political action in DC.  They watch silently, they do not have the funds to hold huge rallies in DC and they cannt even put that much money into a politicians coffers to truly be heard.

When the illness are seen we expend dollars to develop the newest and most advanced prosthesis.  We see the ones with visible war injuries and we extend every resource to save and improve their lives.  When the injuries that are not seen as easily of the hazardous exposures that will still cause casualities for years and decades it is easier for all to ignore and less costly.  Have we really taken our oaths to the veterans seriously?  The current wars are again showing hazardous exposures ie Burn Pits and exposures to carcinogenous substances, hearings are being conducted a bit sooner and we hear yet again we will leave no stone unturned and we will get you VA Care. 

Then we uncover a group of Air Force Reservists from Charleston AFB that have battled for years to be heard.  These reservists were used on manday support and not activated for the Gulf War 1990-91 and they have watched as their members become ill and die early from their service and have been denied help from the DOD and the VA.  How many other hidden casualties do we have?  Will true change ever occur to look at ways to detoxify these exposures and employ medical care to find answers faster that would change the damage done to their bodies? 

Will support to these individuals and their family members that battle to save their lives come?  They are left with no support financially or health wise or emotionally, they suffer and are not seen or acknowledged for their sacrifices and we all of America have left them on the battlefield to die with no honors or gratitude!

Navy’s Vieques Training May Be Tied to Health Risks

NEW YORK TIMES

Published: November 13, 2009

The federal agency that assesses health hazards at sites designated for Superfund environmental cleanups said Friday that it had reversed its conclusion that contamination at a former United States Navy training ground in Puerto Rico posed no health risks to residents.

As a result, it said, it plans to recommend monitoring to determine whether residents of the island of Vieques, the site of decades of live fire and bombing exercises, have been exposed to harmful chemicals and at what levels.

“Much has been learned since we first went to Vieques a decade ago, and we have identified gaps in environmental data that could be important in determining health effects,” Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in a statement posted on the agency’s Web site late Friday afternoon. “The gaps we found indicate that we cannot state unequivocally that no health hazards exist in Vieques.”

In a finding in 2003, the agency had said that levels of heavy metals and explosive compounds found in Vieques’s soil, groundwater, air and fish did not pose a health risk.

The action on Friday is a vindication of the 9,300 residents of the small island off the mainland of northeastern Puerto Rico, who are pursuing claims against the United States government for contamination and illnesses. Puerto Rico’s health department has found disproportionately high rates of illnesses like cancer, hypertension and liver disease on the island. In their claims, residents assert that the illnesses are linked to pollutants released in Navy exercises that continued until 2003.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said hazardous substances associated with ordnance may be present in Vieques. In 2005 the training ground was designated a Superfund site, giving the E.P.A. the authority to order a cleanup by the Navy.

The Navy has begun removing hazardous unexploded munitions from its old training ground, but its practice of detonating them in the open air has sowed more fear among residents.

At the request of Congress, the toxic substances agency said this year said that it would “rigorously” review its 2003 finding that metals and explosive compounds found at Vieques did not pose a health risk. Dr. Frumkin and his staff met with residents in August and held meetings last week in Atlanta with scientists from Puerto Rico whose research contradicted agency conclusions.

“Withdrawing this conclusion sends a strong signal to Washington that there’s a health and environmental crisis that’s credible,” said John Eaves Jr., the lawyer representing the residents in a federal lawsuit.

“Based on this action today,” he said, “I believe there will be a comprehensive plan to address the crisis in Vieques.”

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