Dangerous Chemical Exceeds EPA Safety Standards at Marine Corps Base in Okinawa

February 9, 2023

Stars & Stripes published a piece today on Marine Corps Logistics Base, Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan in relation to a 2019 health hazards report released by NMCPHC after Congresswoman Julia Brownley after a concerned constituent reached out about the health of her grandson in the Marine Corps.

The Naval Public Health Center found the toxic equivalent of 0.0025 mg/kg of the dioxin 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (“TCDD”) in the area of the Marine Corps Maintenance Bldg. 1304, an outdoor exercise facility and the base skatepark – which is FIVE-HUNDRED times the EPA’s carcinogenic screening level. Another section of the base, surrounding the medical clinic, registered more than one-hundred times higher, making the area unsafe for children. Other areas across the base, specifically the Kinser Elementary School and adjacent sports fields were deemed toxic after contaminated soil was used to fill the surrounding area.

TCDD is deemed by the EPA as a “probable human carcinogen”, as passive, long-term TCDD exposures alter the oxidation-reduction process which affects the occurrence and development of cancer. In tumors, the oxidation-reduction state is often in an unbalanced state, which is manifested by increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) level and oxidative stress. Moderate increase of ROS level can promote cell proliferation and differentiation, while excessive increase will lead to DNA damage.

However, pollutants rarely exist in the environment as single compounds, instead of the mixture of two or more chemical substances. Therefore, it is important to consider the impact of potential mixtures of pollutants on human health. Evidence showed that the mixture of pollutants may have higher toxic effects than a single compound, which is the concern for those stationed at and serving on Camp Kinser.

Because of this and the liver being a target for TCDD exposures, the probable correlational score of exposures to TCDD and liver cancer, inflammatory liver disease, hepatic fibrosis, and cirrhosis are all above 75 per Lu et al., 2023, and gene mutations occurring in HK2, EXO1, and PFKP. These alterations have potential to alter these specific genes across three familial generations through trans-generational epigenetic pathways (Singh et al., 2023). TCDD also has the capability to alter two of the body’s largest immune receptor genes: cytochrome P450 1A1 and 1B1, leading to weakened mediated immune responses in both adaptive and innate immunity (responsible for fighting infectious, metabolic diseases, allergies and cancer) (Riaz et al., 2022).

This is of concern to service members and reproduction. Male sperm microRNA (miR) is highly sensitive to environmental changes which can alter the sperm miR profile, thereby causing changes in the physiological functions and impacting sperm vitality but also can induce epigenetic modifications in the embryo post-fertilization and follow through gestation. Postpartum concerns include autoimmune diseases and cancer later in life. Secondly, during pregnancy, a female service member exposed is at risk as TCDD and similar dioxin-like chemicals can successfully cross the placenta which induces thymic atrophy (Blaylock et al., 1992).

There is a noted, positive correlation between airborne exposures to dioxins and TCDD which may lead to a cancer diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (NHL) (Gaspard et al., 2022). It is unknown if this sample population was exposed to the chemical directly or passively through secondary exposures via soil / sand which we assume would make an important difference in reference to our military members.

Marine Corps units Stationed here include:

  • 3rd Maintenance Battalion
  • 3rd Marine Logistics Group
  • 3rd Supply Battalion
  • CLR-35
  • CLR-37

Original Stars & Stripes Article: https://www.stripes.com/branches/marine_corps/2023-02-08/marine-corps-toxins-camp-kinser-okinawa-9074050.html

Lu et al. (2023): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2023.114595

Singh et al. (2023): https://doi.org/10.1093/pnasnexus/pgad016

Blaylock et al. (1992): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1531708/

Gaspard et al. (2022): https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2022-166873

Riaz et al. (2022): https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2022.1057555