Green Cross/Global Green Finds New ATSDR Report on Vieques Bombing Range Inadequate

25 March 2013

Green Cross International (GCI) welcomed the recent release of the 405-page report on Vieques from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a part of the US Centers for Disease Control, and joined civil society partners and scientists in expressing its disappointment in the results.  The report stated that the ATSDR “could not identify a relationship between military activities and health problems experienced by the island’s residents.”

Despite the ATSDR report, Green Cross strongly believes evidence exists indicating a clear link between the US Navy’s six decades of military activities and bombing on Vieques, including napalm and depleted uranium, and the ongoing health crisis there, according to Paul Walker and Finn Longinotto, of GCI’s Environmental Security and Sustainability programme.

Vieques is a small Caribbean island off Puerto Rico’s east coast. The US Navy and its allies, including NATO and Latin American navies, used the island’s eastern third as a training and bombing range for 60 years post-World War II.  The island’s western third was a US naval base, while some 10,000 US citizens resided in the island’s centre. After a decade of vehement protests, the US Navy closed the base and began limited remediation in 2003.

The ATSDR’s objective examination of the data might legitimately conclude that “cause and effect” has not been proven yet.  But the study’s conclusion does not reflect this, and rather appears not to be evidence-based nor properly peer-reviewed.

The lack of consistency and impracticality regarding several ATSDR recommendations has been the cause of a rising number of health questions among Vieques citizens. The ambiguity in this situation is extremely dangerous and cannot be continued.

“For example, the report states that women of reproductive age who consume 14 ounces of fish may be exposing their fetuses to teratogenic concentrations of mercury, while those consuming 12 ounces weekly are not:  How can a housewife in Vieques, let alone a scientist or technician, differentiate between a total 12 or 14 ounces of fish in one week’s meals?  Why are the women of Vieques, and not those in the neighboring coastal areas of Puerto Rico, contaminated with mercury?  Exposure and contamination must be local…very local indeed.  What is the scientific value of the ATSDR recommendations?” adds a prominent Puerto Rican physician.

While Green Cross is disappointed with the ATSDR’s conclusion that old and new data do not point to a relationship between military activities and the health of the Viequenses, we strongly support the proposal that additional studies be conducted.

This, in turn, underlines the importance of Green Cross continuing its work in this area, insisting on the clean-up of munitions on and around the island and researching the possible causal relationship between the military activities and the well documented health crisis on the island of Vieques.

The ATSDR report is available at  HYPERLINK “http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/vieques/2013_report.html” \t “_blank” http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/vieques/2013_report.html

For more info, Finn Longinotto, +1-202-222-0701 (Washington DC),
Paul Garwood, +41-22-789-1662 Geneva, Switzerland)

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