Could herbicide use be linked to health problems on Guam?
Although it may be too late to find a smoking gun, the administration and legislature are both working together to find what evidence may remain linking possible herbicide use in Guam to health effects in the community. One month after a local investigation was launched into the use of Agent Orange in Guam, the administration is now pushing the issue in the nation's capital.
Over the weekend Governor Eddie Calvo met with USEPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who assured Calvo the agency will support Guam EPA's investigation into the possible use of Agent Orange and other dioxins that may have affected the health of Guam residents. Governor's spokesperson Oyaol Ngirairikl said, "The governor did manage to catch a moment with the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy on the environment and I believe they're trying to adjust schedules so they can have a sit down and discuss some of the issues."
And while Calvo is discussing Agent Orange with federal officials, a legislative task force continues to look for evidence proving that contaminants from the military are affecting the health of residents. Senator Fernando Esteves said he's particularly concerned about formerly used defense sites that are a low priority in a long list of sites waiting to be cleaned.
"Areas of the island are very porous so just because they own that land there doesn't give them free reign to do whatever they want or not to clean it up because it can, and that's what we're hoping to prove, is that it has directly affected the local community here and that's more than just agent orange, that's the entire spectrum of agents that have been used on island since the 50's that don't often get talked about, there are the PCB contamination, the TCD contaminations, and many other hazardous constituents that we see," he said.
While the majority of these sites are on military bases, others are on GovGuam or private property. "But what we have to understand is just because there is a contaminated site on the military base it does not mean that doesn't affect us, so we have to look at Guam s one land," the senator said.
The task force has been collaborating with Guam EPA as well as veterans as it moves to create a comprehensive database of information. "I'm not fairly confident we'd be able to find a smoking gun, a lot of time has gone on with the way these toxins move within the environment, the likelihood of finding 100 percent clear cut truth becomes more difficult as time goes by, so the route we're taking is presumption," he said.
Esteves said if sufficient evidence can support the presumption that contaminants used by the military negatively impacted health on island, it could lead to an influx of financial resources or the establishment of a cancer research center for the island.