Victorville Army Airfield / George Air Force Base (AFB) used organochlorine pesticides, before they were banned, to protect its buildings against termites and other pests. The following pesticides and their breakdown products were detected under and around the George AFB Family Housing: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane. The levels of aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane and their breakdown products were so high that the Base Family Housing was barred for residential use when the property was transferred to the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority in 2007. However, the Air Force refused to disclose the use of these pesticides or test the soils at any property except the Base Family Housing. This means that there was no testing done at the George AFB Schools, Barracks, Dorms, or the common areas where children would play (playgrounds, parks, baseball diamond, or pool). See: George AFB’s Schools
The high number of reported miscarriages, stillbirths, infant mortalities, childhood cancers, and infertility in women and girls who lived in the Base Family Housing may be partly due to the persistent, cumulative nature, and synergistic interaction of these pesticides/toxins. Unfortunately, the average length of time that we were stationed at a base was 4 to 6 years. Because of this, we lived with our families at one contaminated base after another, and the number of and levels of toxins kept building in our systems, often with fatal results, especially for our children. See: Air Force Superfund Site
While this article outlines the problems with Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) at George AFB, nearly every military base in the US has or has had the same problems.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
These organochlorine pesticides are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and were banned by a coalition of ninety countries in 2001 because POPs can adversely affect human health, can be transported by wind and water far from where they are used, persist for long periods of time in the environment, and bioaccumulate.
The Air Force’s deception
The Air Force misled Congress
“There’s something going on here other than a fair and equitable evaluation of what should and shouldn’t happen to the taxpayers’ money.” former fighter pilot Col. Maurice Long said. Long. Lt Col Vernon R Lee and Capt. William McDaniel, all retired fighter pilots, contend Air Force officials intentionally misled the Defense Secretary’s Commission on Base Realignment and Closure during 1988 hearings. Ex-officers: Air Force lied about [George AFB] range – Moscow-Pullman Daily News – 7 May 1990
This article might explain why the Air Force went from a fighter base (George AFB) with 360 days of flying weather to Idaho with 100 good days of good weather (Mountain Home AFB). Fighter Pilots need lots of training and lots good weather. I understand doing winter training to be prepared, but not moving a whole base from one of the top areas with great weather and low population.
The Air Force misled the ATSDR
The Air Force deliberately misled the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) about the extremely high levels of organochlorine pesticide contamination at the George Air Force Base Family Housing.
The ATSDR relied on the Air Force to supply ATSDR with the relevant documents and information for the Health Assessment for George AFB). Because the Air Force did NOT supply the relevant documents and information to the ATSDR, the ATSDR did not fully understand the nature and extent of the contamination at the Base Family Housing. The Air Force knew that the ATSDR came to a flawed conclusion in their 1 December 1998 report “Public Health Assessment for George AFB,” section “Evaluation of Potential Public Health Hazards at George Air Force Base” and Exposure Pathways at George Air Force Base.
Because the Air Force did not correct the ATSDR during the Peer Review / Public Comments period or after the report was published in 1998, the Air Force lied by omission.
ATSDR Flawed Public Health Assessment for George Air Force Base, CA
In the 1998 Public Health Assessment for George Air Force Base the ATSDR made the following statements:
“ATSDR did not identify any completed exposure pathways from George AFB to children at nearby schools or residential areas.” Page 27
“Soil at George AFB does not represent an apparent past public health hazard and does not represent a present or future public health hazard.” Page 28
See: Public Health Assessment for George Air Force Base, CA – ATSDR – December 1, 1998
Culpability For Organochlorine Pesticide Contamination
In 1981-82, the DOD and Air Force knew or should have known that organochlorine pesticides posed a serious health hazard to the occupants of approximately 25 percent of the Air Force Base buildings including offices, family housing units, dorms, barracks, and schools.
- Chlordane in Air Force Family Housing: Final. A Study of Houses Treated After Construction – September 1981 – PDF
- Chlordane in Air Force Family Housing: A Study of Houses Treated Prior To Construction – June 1982 – PDF
- Chlordane Problem in Houses on Slabs, The New York Times – September 30, 1982
“A pesticide used to kill termites has leaked into the ventilation systems of more than 1,500 houses at United States Air Force bases across the country, according to studies made public recently by the Air Force. The pesticide, chlordane, was found to have entered heating and air-conditioning ducts in dwellings built on concrete slabs, allowing it to circulate in the air freely.”
- An Assessment of the Health Risks of Seven Pesticides Used for Termite Control – August 1982 – Prepared under Contract N00014-80-C-0161 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Office of Naval Research
“Given the available data and the fact that under conditions of prolonged exposure of families in military housing there may be persons, such as young children, who in general are more susceptible to environmental insults, the Committee concluded that it could not determine a level of exposure to any of the termiticides below which there would be no biologic effects.” – Page 46
- Removing Airborne Chlordane in Crawl Space Houses at McConnell Air Force Base KS – December 1982 – PDF
The Air Force did not test the George Air Force Base family housing units for pesticides until 2002, and failed to notify the previous tenants of the George Air Force family housing units as of 11 March 2015.
Organochlorine pesticides levels at the George AFB Family Housing
In 2002, aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane were detected under and around the George AFB Family Housing. On 1 October 2007, the levels of these persistent organochlorine pesticides and their breakdown products was so high that the Air Force banned the property and housing for residential use.
- In November 2002, the Air Force knew that the soil under and around the George AFB Family Housing was contaminated with hazardous levels of organochlorine pesticides
- aldrin at 16, 700 μg/kg – 576 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.3-0.8
- dieldrin at 15,000 μg/kg – 500 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.3-0.8
- chlordane at 24,100 μg/kg – 15 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.5-1
μg/kg: concentrations of chemicals in soil measured in units of the mass of chemical (micrograms, μg) per mass of soil (kilogram, kg)
PRG: residential preliminary remediation goal
ft. bgs: feet below ground surface
- On 1 October 2007, the Air Force placed the following conditional use clause in the George AFB Family Housing quitclaim deed: “Grantee covenants and agrees that it will not use, or allow others to use, the Property for residential purposes (including mobile or modular homes), hospitals for human care, public or private schools for persons under 18 years of age, nursery schools, or day care centers for children.”
- As of 17 January 2015, the Air Force has failed to notify the former base personnel, their families, civilian employees, and the surrounding community of their exposure to potentially life-threatening environmental contamination at George AFB’s Family Housing.
CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions
The Army and/or Air Force used the organochlorine pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endosulfan, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane to protect the older buildings (pre-1986) against ground termites and other pests at George AFB including the Base Schools, Family Housing, Barracks, and Dorms.
- The DOD and the Air Force failed to test for these organochlorine pesticides except at the Base Family Housing Units.
- The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose the widespread use of these organochlorine pesticides in the CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions as required by law except for at the Base Family Housing Units.
- The DOD and the Air Force failed to test the soils at the former George AFB Elementary School and George Junior High (Middle) School for dieldrin.
- The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose that dangerous levels of aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane were present at the Base Family Housing Units in the CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions as required by law.
- The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose the widespread use of these organochlorine pesticides to the ATSDR for its 1998 Public Health Assessment for George AFB. When the ATSDR concluded that there were no completed exposure pathways, the DOD and the Air Force did not correct the ATSDR during the Peer Review / Public Comments period or after the Public Health Assessment for George AFB was published in 1998.
BREACH OF ANY ENVIRONMENTAL RESTRICTIVE COVENANT IN SUBPARAGRAPH VII.B. BELOW MAY AFFECT THE FOREGOING WARRANTY
VII.B. Environmental Restrictive Covenants.
(e) Grantee covenants and agrees that it will not use, or allow others to use, the Property for residential purposes (including mobile or modular homes), hospitals for human care, public or private schools for persons under 18 years of age, nursery schools, or day care centers for children.
Page 5 of 14
VIII. OTHER COVENANTS
- Pesticides. The Grantee is warned of the presence of Dieldrin or other possible pesticide-related constituents (“Pesticides”) on the Property in certain portions of the soil and in the upper aquifer of the groundwater, which may have resulted from past applications of pesticides. The Grantee is cautioned to use due care during use, occupancy, and Property development activities that may involve soils containing Pesticides. …
Page 7 of 14
The Persistent Organic Pollutants at George AFB
Persistent Organic Pollutants Pesticides
- Aldrin – Insecticides used for termite control – air and soil
- Chlordane – Insecticide used on home lawn and garden pests also used extensively to control termites – air and soil
- DDT – Insecticide
- Dieldrin – Insecticides used for termite control – air, soil, and groundwater
- Endrin – Insecticide also used to control rodents – air and soil
- Heptachlor – Insecticide used primarily against soil insects and termites – air and soil
These pesticides/insecticides were used to protect the older wooden buildings’ foundations against ground termites and other pests at George AFB.
Persistent Organic Pollutants Dioxins and Furans
- Dioxins and Furans were released into the air, soil, and groundwater at George AFB by the “unlined open-air burn pits” and “incinerators” (without an air scrubber to remove toxic chemicals) See: George AFB’s Burn Pits and Incinerators
Persistent Organic Pollutants’ Cumulative and Synergistic Interactions
A Cumulative Risk Assessment for all of the Persistent Organic Pollutants released at George AFB needs to be conducted because of the enhanced toxic effects of multiple POPs exposures. For example, what is considered a “safe level” of exposure to a single Persistent Organic Pollutant cannot be considered a “safe level” if the exposure consists of several Persistent Organic Pollutants. This occurred at the Base Family Housing where the tenants were exposed to pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane, and dioxin, which was released by the burn pits and incinerators. The synergistic and cumulative effects of these POPs is devastating and would explain the high infant mortality rate at George AFB. See: George AFB’s Children
Health Effects of Aldrin, Chlordane, Dieldrin, Endrin, and Heptachlor
According to the EPA, contact with contaminated soil or ingestion or inhalation of aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, and/or heptachlor can:
- Cause birth defects
- Cause breast cancer
- Cause cancer
- Cause Parkinson’s disease
- Damage the kidneys
- Decrease the effectiveness of our immune system
- Increase infant mortality
- Reduce reproductive success
The Persistent Organic Pollutant Dioxin
The DOD released dioxin into the air, soil and groundwater via the numerous unlined open-air burn pits and incinerators (without an air scrubber to remove toxic chemicals).
Health Effects of Dioxins
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and also cause cancer.
The “Dirty Dozen” Persistent Organic Pollutants
Source accessed on 12/25/2014: EPA
George AFB History
George AFB, originally called the Victorville Army Airfield, was constructed between 1941 and 1943 as a flight training school. After World War II, the base was placed on standby status and used for surplus aircraft storage. The base was reopened in 1950 under the command of the newly created U.S. Air Force and renamed George Air Force Base. Flight training remained the primary mission of this base throughout its history and a number of bomber, glider, single engine, twin engine, and jet fighter aircraft were flown there. George AFB was a major training facility for the Air Force’s F-4 Phantom and was the home of the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (U.S. Air Force, 1997c).
In 1988, George AFB was scheduled in the first round of base closures passed by Congress under the Base Realignment and Closure program. The base was officially decommissioned in December 1992. In 1993, President Clinton announced a “Five Part Plan” to speed economic recovery in communities where military bases were to be closed. One part of this plan called for improving public participation in the base’s environmental cleanup program. George AFB was among a number of installations where environmental cleanup was placed on a “fast track” so that base property could be quickly transferred to the community for reuse (U.S. Air Force, 1997c).
See: ATSDR Site Description and History
- Bioaccumulate: to become concentrated inside the bodies of living things
- Organochlorine pesticides: POPs made out of organochlorine compounds. These organochlorine compounds and there metabolites can cross the placental barrier and accumulate in lipid rich tissues such as human breast and breast milk
- Persistent organic pollutants (POPs): organic compounds of natural or anthropogenic origin that resist photolytic, chemical and / or biological degradation (UNEP, 1999)
- Persistent: extremely resistant to natural breakdown processes and therefore are stable and long-lived
- Pollutants: toxic chemicals which adversely affect human health
- Synergistic interaction: the effect of two chemicals taken together which is greater than the sum of their separate effect at the same doses
- AF – United States Air Force
- CAA: Clean Air Act
- CERCLA: Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980
- CWA: Clean Water Act
- EPA – United States Environmental Protection Agency
- FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
- DOD – United States Department of Defense
- POPs – Persistent Organic Pollutants
- TSCA: Toxic Substances Control Act
- WHO – World Health Organization