Rid Our Armed Forces’ Eating Facilities of Toxic Substances

Target:  Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

Goal: Ensure the clean up and removal of any toxic or harmful materials at US Armed Forces facilities

A naval base in San Diego California has been cited for numerous safety code violations which were responsible for exposing hundreds of base employees to toxic chemicals and harmful substances. Cadmium, beryllium, and lead were among the dangerous substances found at the facility and were even detected in places where the employees both store and eat their food. Some of the violations were classified as “willful,” which indicates a blatant disregard for employee health and safety. The Navy is complying with the clean up process and claims it is now putting worker safety first. It is hard to believe that this is the only facility in violation of health standards, and other bases and facilities are unlikely to take the initiative and monitor this sort of thing themselves. Help ensure our Armed Service members are provided with safe work environments that are free from harmful chemicals. Demand all US Armed Service facilities check for and remove any toxic substances in inappropriate areas on the premises.

The facility, primarily responsible for the maintenance of naval aircraft, was cited for 21 of what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls “serious violations,” which means that each violation posed a significant risk of death or serious physical harm, and of which the employer (in this case the Navy) should have been aware.  Cadmium is used to coat aircraft and prevent corrosion, and when airborne it can then be absorbed through the lungs and cause major health problems. This facility saw the use of dry sweeping in an environment with heavy cadmium use, which is a violation of protocol. Wet mopping is the proper way to clean a cadmium environment, and the facility was found to be in willful violation of this protocol. Lead was also found in paint on the walls and the Navy is now removing the paint and conducting an industrial cleaning throughout the facility.

It is hard to believe violations like this are rare. What is more likely is that such violations, while common, are rarely mentioned within the US Armed Services. This particular case only came to the attention of OSHA after employees complained about the conditions. We cannot expect facilities like this one to adequately monitor themselves. We need a mandate from our leaders that these facilities must undergo testing for, and removal of, harmful substances. We ask a lot of our servicemen and women, but asking them to perform their duties in toxic environments is unacceptable.  Act now and prevent further hazardous conditions from remaining at our Armed Services facilities.


Dear General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta,

As US citizens we are appalled to learn of the hazardous conditions that have persisted at the naval base in San Diego, California. The facility was cited for 21 serious health code violations, in which a high probability of death or serious physical harm was found to exist as a result of hazardous conditions that the facility’s administration should have known about. All the more alarming is the fact that these violations only came to light after employees complained about them. We need to have a system in place that regularly checks to ensure facilities like this one are free from harmful and dangerous substances.

We understand that some harmful chemicals are needed in the maintenance of aircraft and other military equipment, however, cadmium should never be exposed to the food or eating facilities of our servicemen and women (which was the case in San Diego). We urge you to support an effort to test our facilities for similar violations and not wait until serious health problems occur among the population of our Armed Forces servicemen and women.


[Your Name Here]

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