Military families may need to add drinking water to their growing list of lifestyle-related worries and concerns. A recent report from the Department of Defense confirms that potentially hazardous chemicals are in the tap water at many military installations.
These recent reports have left a stain on the current White House and Department of Defense because it looks like a cover-up might have happened.
Don’t Drink the Water at Your Military Base
Before military families go into full-on panic mode, it’s important that we know exactly what we’re dealing with or at least understand as much as we can with the information currently available.
What is the issue with the drinking water?
Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) are two chemicals commonly found in everyday objects. You can find PFOS/PFOA in everything from Teflon coating to waterproofing on fabric to fast food wrappers. It was phased out of use by American manufacturers starting in May 2000.
Why are PFOS/PFOA a concern?
According to the DoD report and additional reporting by news outlets, PFOS/PFOA exposure can be harmless in small amounts. However, repeated and long-term exposure comes with a host of health complications.
Both men and women can experience impacts on fertility. Babies may be born with developmental delays. Those exposed may experience increased cholesterol levels, increased uric acid and changes in liver enzymes. There may also be changes to the immune system too.
Finally, exposure to PFOS/PFOA may have an increased risk of prostate, kidney and testicular cancers.
As of August 2017, 401 current and former military installations have had their water tested. Of those, 90 have water samples that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) levels.
Additionally, 2,668 groundwater sources have been tested. Of those, 1,621 have PFOS/PFOA levels above the EPA’s LHA. All told, 1,711 sites have compromised water sources.
Reports also indicate that a total of 126 military installations have polluted water that could cause health problems.
The DoD’s response at this time, according to their published report, is to educate the services, investigate the use of products containing PFOS/PFOA and begin planning for cleanup operations.
Since the water was tested in 2017, why wasn’t the water contamination report released earlier?
The PFOS/PFOA report is enough to cause public concern. However, it now appears that the White House and DoD officials might have prevented the immediate release of information.
Through emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists, officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned the EPA of a “public relations nightmare” when the PFOS/PFOA report was released. These emails are dated January 2018.
Reports on the water contamination were released in spring 2018.
What can military families do?
If you are living on or near an impacted installation or groundwater source, it might be time to consider changing how you drink water.
Adding a water filtration system, according to a 2016 report on Water Online, can have some impact on the levels of PFOS and PFOA in your tap water supply. However, no single system has been shown to be totally effective for both categories or related chemicals. Granular activated carbon has been shown to be the most effective filtration system, along with nanofiltration and reverse osmosis.
Another option is to switch to bottled water. The Food and Drug Administration monitors bottled water manufacturers to ensures compliance with health and safety standards.
Military families should also document health concerns that might be related to PFOS/PFOA contamination. Correlating your family’s physical location with health problems that might stem from exposure to chemical contaminants is important for long-term care and solutions.
Military communities have already banded together to provide documentation of military-caused health issues due to contaminated drinking water. Current and former residents of Camp Lejeune scored a victory in this arena.