US Air Force discovers cancer-causing chemicals in missile control centers.

US Air Force discovers cancer-causing chemicals in missile control centers.

US Air Force Finds Possible Cancer-Causing Chemicals at Montana Base

The US Air Force recently made a troubling discovery at its Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. After investigating unusual cases of blood cancer among missileers, the Air Force found unsafe levels of probable cancer-causing chemicals in the nuclear missile launch control centers at the base. This revelation has raised concerns about the health and safety of military personnel who have worked at the site.

To determine the presence of potential contaminants, a team of experts conducted tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base in June. They collected 300 surface swipe samples from the launch control centers, which serve as the command centers for controlling and monitoring missile launch facilities. Of these samples, 279 showed no detectable levels of contaminants.

However, the remaining 21 samples revealed detectable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) above federally recommended thresholds. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies PCBs as “probable human carcinogens” with known adverse health effects. PCBs are a group of man-made organic chemicals commonly used in electrical equipment and other industrial applications.

To address the issue, Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, directed Twentieth Air Force to initiate immediate cleanup measures for the affected facilities. The air samples from the launch control centers and support building showed no detectable levels of PCBs, indicating that the contamination was limited to the surface.

The exact number of individuals who may have been exposed to these likely carcinogens remains unclear. Nevertheless, the Air Force’s priority is to ensure a safe and clean work environment for its missile community. The ongoing cleanup process aims to mitigate any potential hazards and safeguard the well-being of the Airmen and Guardians assigned to these facilities.

The results obtained from Malmstrom Air Force Base are just the beginning of a comprehensive sampling effort across all intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases in the United States. The Air Force intends to address the concerns related to cancer within the missile community. Pending results from air and surface tests at two other bases in Wyoming and North Dakota, F.E. Warren and Minot, respectively, as well as ground and water samples from all three bases, will provide a clearer picture of the situation.

These three bases house and operate the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which form a crucial part of the US nuclear triad. The missile triad comprises nuclear-armed bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. At Malmstrom Air Force Base, where the recent discovery was made, 3,300 active-duty service members are stationed.

The investigation into the blood cancer cases among officers who previously served at Malmstrom started several months ago. Several missileers who had worked underground were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at relatively young ages. In January, Air Force officials began exploring any possible connections between the disease and their military careers, some of which spanned several decades. Since then, additional cases of blood cancer have been reported at Malmstrom and other bases.

Exposure to cancer-causing agents is a concern that extends beyond this specific base or military personnel. US service members have encountered such agents in various settings, both domestically and overseas. For instance, veterans involved in cleanup efforts following atomic testing in the Pacific Ocean reported higher instances of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, suggesting a link between their service and the development of the disease.

These recent findings at Malmstrom Air Force Base highlight the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of military personnel. The ongoing efforts to detect and address potential contaminants will help ensure a secure work environment for Airmen and Guardians across all missile bases.