F.E. Warren Air Force Base, home to part of the nation’s nuclear missile arsenal, is now testing its military family housing for contamination after a child’s blood test came back showing elevated levels of lead exposure, the base announced Thursday.
F.E. Warren is a nuclear missile base located near Cheyenne, Wyoming, and home to approximately 3,300 airmen and their families who support the 90th Missile Wing. It has been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Superfund sites for years as the government has worked to clean up dozens of cancer-linked contaminants found in the ground water and soil.
It was also most recently named by the Defense Department as one of the locations where groundwater has been found to contain PFOS or PFOA componds — chemicals used in firefighting foam — that are also linked to cancers or birth defects.
The water at or around 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants.
This week the base put out an advisory on its Facebook page alerting the base community to the child’s lead levels, and said after testing the home, they found lead inside the family’s home, specifically in a door knob and bathtub, and they were beginning to test other residences.
The child lives in privatized family housing on base, and the child’s exposure was discovered during a routine medical checkup on base. Lead poisoning in children can lead to developmental issues or even death, depending on the amount of exposure.
“There is no immediate life-threatening danger,” the Facebook message communicated to residents. “There is no lead in the water and it is safe to drink. We are a close-knit family and because of that, F. E. Warren and Balfour Beatty Communities are taking precautionary measures to do further testing.”
The base acknowledged the contamination in a public statement Thursday and said they were still looking for the cause behind the exposure. Lead contamination can come from paint or other materials, and can end up in public water sources, as it did in Flint, Michigan, in 2016.
“Base leadership and the privatized housing contractor formed a team to notify potentially affected tenants and to continue to test other homes to determine if there is cause for concern,” the statement said. “A team of experts is testing and investigating to determine potential sources of lead exposure.”
The discovery is the latest in a series of military bases that have reported dangerous levels of lead. Last week Reuters reported that Army bases across the U.S. had exposed military families to unsafe levels of lead. At least 31 children reported high levels of lead in their blood at Georgia’s Fort Benning, for example.
A spokesman for the base said the testing of other residences is still ongoing and that they did not have any other houses beyond the first one yet to report.
The Facebook post was first posted to the Air Force amn/nco/snco forum.