Wednesday, February 8, 2023

U.S. service members who've handled nuclear missiles are getting cancers, document charges

"Missileers" — American service members "tasked with manning the nation's nuclear missile launch control centers" — have been contracting cancer out of proportion to the general population. 

A story by Meryl Kornfield early this month in The Washington Post cites a document that ties 30 cancer cases "to people who worked at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana."

Sen. Jon Tester
The article quotes Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, as saying that he's asked "the Air Force for a full accounting of the cancer cases and other illnesses at Malmstrom, which house 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos, as well as other bases where missileers operate."

Tester also maintains that any former or current missileers at the bases should be screened. 

The revelatory document is an unofficial, crowdsourced one "created by a Space Force officer and obtained by The Washington Post," Kornfield's piece indicates. The cancer cases, which reportedly have been spread over half a century, included 13 from lymphoma, with four of those patients dying.

Most, the story reports, "were men in their 30s and 40s, well below the median age of 67 for a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis."

An Air Force lieutenant colonel argued in a Jan. 11 letter that one man's terminal cancer "was caused by the thousands of hours spent in the subterranean missile bunkers at Malmstrom."

The letter notes, the Post article continues, "that the cancer cluster was being investigated by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General after a complaint by another missile who suffers from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."

The story maintains that a congressional inquiry "has also begun and there is a mounting panic among the community of missileers" — and that Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, who leads Air Force Global Strike Command, says "the Air Force School f Aerospace Medicine has started a formal investigation."

Radon and polychlorinated biphenyls, "which Air Force employees said they were exposed to, are often linked to cancer diagnoses, according to experts," the Post piece explains — adding that "those chemicals can pose a stronger impact if they're exposed to workers in cramped spaces with weak ventilation."

More information about the dangers of nuclear devices, including X-ray and other screening machines, can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, its author, aimed at male caregivers.

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