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Agency to revise studies and conclusions on military toxics and health on Vieques

10 August 2009

Press Release

Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry visits Vieques to revise its studies and conclusions on military toxics and health on the island municipality.

Dr. Howard Frumkin, Executive Director of the Agency for Toxic Substance and?Disease Registry (ATSDR) – part of the Centers for Disease Control?(CDC/Atlanta), will meet in Vieques with community leaders Wednesday, August?12.

Participants in the meeting with Dr. Frumkin will include members of the? Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV); Vieques Women’s Alliance; Restoration Advisory Board; Vieques Commerce Association; scientific advisers to the Vieques community from the University of Puerto ?Rico, Dr. Jorge Colón and Dr. Cruz María Nazario; lawyer Flavio Cumpiano,? CRDV advisor in Washington, DC.  The meeting will take place Wednesday, August 12 at 7:00 PM at the Punta Mulas Lighthouse in Isabel Segunda, Vieques.

Six years after the cessation of bombing n Vieques, this community struggles now to get the US Navy to clean up the island municipality of the military toxics left behind after six decades of war practices.  The Viequenses demand, also, that government agencies – both federal and Puerto Rican –guarantee their right to live in a safe environment and in good health.

Wednesday’s meeting in Vieques corresponds to strong criticism of ATSDR by a congressional commission that forced its Director, Dr. Howard Frumkin, to point to the need for “taking a fresh look at the 2001 studies” done by ATSDR on Vieques.

These studies indicated that Vieques’ health crisis—for instance, a 27% higher cancer incidence compared to the rest of Puerto Rico – had no relation to contamination produced by the US Navy. ATSDR studies about Vieques have been criticized by several scientists from Puerto Rico and the United States.  Members of a congressional commission—the Subcommission for Investigations of the Science and Technology Commission of the House of Representatives – have criticized ATSDR studies about Vieques and urged Dr. Frumkin to reexamine his agency’s studies and Vieques’ health situation, and to take into consideration the many scientific studies by Puerto Rican professionals and others that indicate high levels of heavy metals in the environment, the food chain and in the people of Vieques.

Community groups reject Navy practices of open-air detonation of unexploded ordnance as part of the `clean up’.  They argue that the explosion of bombs over the past two years has added to the level of contamination.  They also oppose Navy plans to burn hundreds of acres of vegetation in the ex bombing range on Vieques to facilitate location of bombs and other dangerous artifacts.

Since the ATSDR studies and conclusions were made public more than six years ago, suggesting that toxic substances dropped by the Navy on Vieques do not represent a health risk, the Navy has rested on these studies to avoid responsibility for an adequate clean up, decontamination and Vieques health crisis. The visit to Vieques by the ATSDR director coincides with the consideration in the Puerto Rico district of the US Federal Court, of a?lawsuit by seven thousand Viequenses against the Navy for health damages. Lawyer John Arthur Eaves, Jr., legal representative for the plaintiffs, will also be in Vieques this week to participate in meetings, including one with clients and others interested on Thursday, August 13 as  6:00 PM at the island’s Multi Use Center.

Nilda Medina 787 206-0602
Robert Rabin 787 375-0525

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