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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Releases Final Health Assessment on Air Pathway for the Isla de Vieques Bombing Range Site, Vieques, Puerto Rico.


Vieques County, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, today released a final public health assessment (PHA) that investigated the air pathway for possible contaminants from the U.S. Navy's bombing range site on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The PHA finds that exposure to air contaminants potentially released from Navy property on Vieques poses no apparent health hazard.

In May 1999, an island resident asked (petitioned) ATSDR to evaluate whether any health problems of Vieques residents might be associated with potential releases of hazardous substances from military training activities on the island. ATSDR responded by conducting a series of focused public health assessments, on groundwater/drinking water, soil, fish and shellfish, and air pathways. After completing its evaluations, ATSDR assessed these exposures are much lower than levels known to be associated with adverse health effects.

For the air exposure pathway, ATSDR also concludes the following:

  • Air samples have shown that levels of particulate matter are much lower than health-based air quality standards. Thus, wind-blown dust from the live impact area (LIA) is not a health hazard.
  • Most of the contaminants released to the air during past military training exercises involving live bombs were dispersed to extremely low concentrations over the 7.9 miles that separate the center of the LIA from the nearest residential areas of Vieques. ATSDR's best estimates of ambient air concentrations suggest that past exposures during the live bombing exercises were at levels below those associated with adverse health effects.
  • Open burning and detonation operations to treat unused munitions and unexploded ordnance have released contaminants to the air. However, ATSDR's modeling analysis indicates these emissions do not cause levels of pollution that could present a public health hazard.
  • Residents of Vieques are not exposed to levels of environmental contamination that could present a public health hazard, whether chemical or radiological, as a result of the Navy's limited past use of depleted uranium penetrators during military training exercises.

ATSDR recommends the following actions be taken:

  • No live bombing has occurred on Vieques since 1999 and all training activities ceased in May of 2003. If the Navy ever were to resume exercises, ATSDR recommends that PREQB collect daily samples in Esperanza and Isabel Segunda of particulate matter, metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds.
  • ATSDR recommends that any residents using rainfall collection systems for a drinking water supply read the documents that ATSDR has placed in the records repositories regarding good sanitation practices for harvesting rain water.
  • ATSDR plans to review cancer registry information and data gathered by the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH). ATSDR's review will follow the official release of PRDOH's review of the cancer registries, but it is not known when that will occur.

The final health assessment will be available for public review on or about Sept. 12, 2003 at the following records repositories:

The Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust
Calle Flamboyan 138
Vieques, PR

Biblioteca, Municipio de Vieques
Calle Carlos Le Brun 449
Vieques, PR

University of Puerto Rico
School of Public Health
Medical Sciences Campus Library
Industrial Hygiene Department
San Juan, PR

Community members seeking information on the procedures or the content of the public health assessment may contact Environmental Health Scientist Jeff Kellam or Health Communication Specialist Maria Teran-McIver, toll free, at 1-888-422-8737. Regional Representative Arthur Block also may be contacted at 212-637-4307. Callers should refer to the Isla de Vieques Air PHA (final), Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Established by Congress in 1980 under the Superfund law, ATSDR conducts public health assessments at each of the sites on the EPA National Priorities List, as well as other sites when petitioned. Headquartered in Atlanta, ATSDR is staffed by more than 400 health professionals including epidemiologists, physicians, toxicologists, engineers and public health educators.

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Related News Releases For Vieques County, Vieques, Puerto Rico

 

ATSDR Releases Final Report on Vieques
Release Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Following a thorough review of environmental, biological, and health data from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released its final report today.

La ATSDR publica informe final sobre Vieques
Release Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Basado en una revisión minuciosa de los datos ambientales, biológicos y de salud de la isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico, la Agencia para Sustancias Tóxicas y el Registro de Enfermedades (ATSDR por sus siglas en inglés) publicó hoy su informe final.

Federal Agency to Change its Early Conclusions on Environmental Assessment in Vieques
Release Date: Friday, November 13, 2009
ATLANTA - The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has signaled its intent to modify some of its earlier conclusions about health risks to residents of the Island of Vieques. The decision was shared during a meeting with scientists from Puerto Rico and followed a thorough review of ATSDR public health assessments finalized in 2003 and other environmental studies of the island conducted in the intervening years. ATSDR's re-examination of the data comes as part of a "fresh look" the federal public health agency pledged to island residents and Congress.

Agencia Federal Cambiará sus Primeras Conclusiones en la Evaluación Ambiental de Vieques
Release Date: Friday, November 13, 2009
ATLANTA-La Agencia para Sustancias Tóxicas y el Registro de Enfermedades (ATSDR por sus siglas en inglés) ha señalado su intento de modificar algunas de sus primeras conclusiones sobre los riesgos de salud de los residentes de la Isla Vieques. La decisión fue compartida durante una reunión con científicos de Puerto Rico después de una revisión comprensiva de las evaluaciones de salud pública que la ATSDR finalizó en el 2003 y otros estudios ambientales de la isla elaborados en los años siguientes. La reexaminación de los datos forma parte de la “mirada fresca” que la agencia de salud pública prometió a los residentes de la isla y al Congreso.

ATSDR Releases Public Comment Version of Focused Public Health Assessment on Fish and Shellfish for Vieques Bombing Range Site, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Release Date: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is releasing today for public comment a focused public health assessment (PHA) on fish and shellfish in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

ATSDR Announces The Availability Of The Draft Version Of Its Focused Public Health Assessment, Soil Pathway Evaluation, for Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico
Release Date: Friday, October 26, 2001
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced today the availability of the draft version of its Focused Public Health Assessment, Soil Pathway Evaluation, for Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Ponce School of Medicine and ATSDR Releases The Summary Report for the Vieques Heart Study Expert Panel Review
Release Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2001
The Ponce School of Medicine and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, today jointly are releasing the Summary Report for the Vieques Heart Study Expert Panel Review.

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