From 1985 to 2001, personnel at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi in Atsugi, Japan may have been exposed to environmental contaminants from off-base waste incinerators. The incinerators were shut down in May 2001.
In the 1960s, researchers from the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory began testing a new class of firefighting foam that could rapidly extinguish fuel fires. The foams, dubbed aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), were a boon to firefighters. Special perfluorinated chemicals gave AFFF unique hydrophobic and surfactant properties, allowing it to rapidly seal over burning fuel and prevent reignition once a blaze had been extinguished. By the 1970s, AFFF was in use at most military bases, airports, refineries, and many civilian fire departments around the world.
The following video features a press conference and conversation with Jon Mitchell about the extent of military contamination in Japan and tools used to uncover and shed light on the story. Jon Mitchell is a Special Correspondent for Okinawa Times and an Award Winner of FCCJ’s Freedom of the Press Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also chief contributor to our Okinawa section and esteemed member of the Civilian Exposure Journalist Advisory Board.
In most discussions in the media regarding Camp Lejeune water contamination, often the focus is given only to 4 core chemicals – TCE, PCE, benzene and vinyl chloride. While these were prevalent in extraordinary amounts in the groundwater and soil for decades at Lejeune, they are not the only chemicals that were found. According to the EPA, there were many more (at varying levels) determined as site contaminants and published as part of the original EPA Superfund listing.