Estimation of legacy public health risks from munitions residues near or at former military test ranges has for the past decades been a challenge to health authorities. Parts of the island of Vieques (PR) were for six decades used for military training, and these are now declared as a Superfund site. ATSDR has conducted site assessments there and found no cause for public health concerns. The reports and findings of ATSDR have since been heavily contested and disputed. This paper provides a case study on cancer risk screening of munitions-specific carcinogens for the full period of military training on Vieques. Added cancer risks and Margins of Exposure for the diferent carcinogens for each year were derived. We found that there is a potential for cancer risk concern related to BaP exposures. Furthermore, there were health risks from TNT exposures. The primary exposure route of these compounds was oral. The period 1992–1997 showed a significantly elevated lung and bronchus cancer incidence rate in Vieques compared to Puerto Rico mainland mainly among women <50 yr and men 50–64 yr. These correlate with high munitions exposures in the period 1977–1984.
|Punishing Vieques: Puerto Rico Struggles With Contamination 10 Years After Activists Expel U.S. Navy. Democracy Now|
Estimating the human health risks from historical and legacy distributed munitions residues from military test ranges has for the past decades been a challenge to authorities (Phillips & Perry, 2002). This is because there generally is little information available regarding estimating the public health risks of military-unique releases to humans via environmental pathways from past activities (Phillips & Perry, 2002). The aim of this paper is therefore to provide an example of how a risk assessment can be developed to help prioritise further empirical risk research with an emphasis on cancer risks.
We chose the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, which has been used as a military test area for more than six decades by the U.S. military. The Navy engaged two-thirds of the island’s 9000 acres where military exercises tested live ammunition. Testing was open on average 180 days per year (AJPH, 2001). Meanwhile, between 9000 and 14000, inhabitants lived eight miles away from the ranges during the period. The first large-scale war games took place in 1948 involving more than 60 war ships, 350 planes and 50,000 troops from all branches of the military. In the early 1980s, an average of 3400 bombs were deployed, 158 days of naval bombardment, 200 days of air-to-ground combat exercises and 21 days of marines practising invasions per year on the island. Over 15 years from 1983 to 1998, the military deployed more than 17.7 million kg of munitions on Vieques (Davis, Hayes-Conroy, & Jones, 2007).
In 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) listed the Vieques bombing range as a Superfund site (Davis et al., 2007). After the closure and the Superfund status, the US EPA commissioned an assessment of ecological and human health risks. The current conclusion regarding human health risks is that the exposure is not under control – meaning that; (1) contamination has been detected at a site at an unsafe level; and (2) a reasonable expectation exists that people may be exposed to the contamination (US EPA, 2016b). https://goo.gl/H2FsX2