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Air Force Expands Investigation into Potential High Cancer Rates Among Nuclear Missile Workers

by Anna

The U.S. Air Force has decided to broaden its study on whether service members involved in nuclear missile operations have experienced unusually high rates of cancer. The decision comes after a preliminary review raised concerns, prompting a deeper examination. The initial study was initiated in response to reports of illnesses among those who served in nuclear missile roles. While the specific findings of cancer numbers are yet to be made public, the Air Force released an initial assessment indicating the need for further review.

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The investigation is part of a comprehensive review initiated earlier this year to assess if missile launch officers were exposed to unsafe contaminants. Numerous current or former missile launch officers reported being diagnosed with cancer, leading to extensive testing of air, water, soil, and surface areas at missile bases. The expanded study will encompass the entire missile community, including those who supported the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) mission.

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While tests at Montana and Wyoming bases did not reveal harmful levels of contamination in air, water, and soil, underground launch control capsules showed unsafe levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are recognized as potential carcinogens. The study aims to build a risk profile for past members of the missile community, considering potential exposure in previous decades when infrastructure may not have been updated.

To enhance the study, the Air Force is expanding its review of medical records, reaching back to 1976 for personnel who worked with military nuclear missiles. The data collection will include information from the Department of Veterans Affairs and state cancer registries. The study intends to capture data on all missile community members who served from 1976 to 2010.

This response marks a departure from previous handling of concerns raised by missile launch officers. The Air Force’s increased attention is attributed to scores of officers reporting cancer cases and a collective effort by the affected community, leading to a more thorough investigation. The study is part of a broader shift within the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to address concerns related to exposure to toxic contaminants in military occupations.

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