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How this military explosive is poisoning American soil


It was a secret World War II project with an urgent mission. Develop a powerful new bomb to fend off the Germans, who were threatening the European continent. British scientists tried to perfect a chemical bond they referred to as “research department explosive” or RDX — nearly twice as powerful as TNT. RDX, most powerful explosive in existence. It’s so dangerous in the raw state, thatit must be stored underwater. But they needed thousands of tons to win the war, and they couldn’t make it fast enough. That is, until American chemists figured out a way to mass produce it. A team of scientists secretly assembled by the government invented a new process to manufacture these “super-explosives,” churning out hundreds of tons in a day. RDX transformed weapons overnight. It enabled the world’s first handheld rocket launcher to pierce armor. It was packed into a 10,000-pound underwater bomb. And it was disguised as pancake mix in an operation called the Aunt Jemima project. RDX spawned the greatest period of military manufacturing in history. But half a century later, the ingenious chemicals that boosted the US military, are inflicting aftershocks in our own backyards. RDX is a dangerous pollutant that’s found
its way into our soils and drinking water supplies. And the Environmental Protection Agency has been tasked with figuring out exactly how much of a health risk it poses to us —
and how much of the mess the government needs to clean up. Here’s what we know about the unique environmental that is RDX: The first series of long-term experiments was conducted by the Pentagon in the 1980s. They fed high doses of RDX to rats and mice, and watched them for two years. As the dosage increased, the RDX made them agitated. Their hearts became enlarged, their eyes grew discolored, then opaque. Of the hundreds of animals  they experimented on with the highest doses, about half died. Of these mice with moderate to heavy doses, one in six females grew rare tumors on their liver or lungs, roughly half of which were malignant. Liver cancer was also noted in the male rats. So it all added up to a statistically significant and alarming sign that RDX could cause cancer in people. But the studies were never peer reviewed or published. After the military shared its final reports with the EPA, the agency classified RDX as a “possible human carcinogen” in 1990…a warning that it was potentially dangerous and deserved more study. It came at a time when RDX contamination was cropping up at sites across the country. At bomb-making plants and testing ranges, it spread into the soil and water supplies. Take the case of Mapleton, Utah, with quaint homes and gardens where residents grew their own food. At least until 1997, when residents got a letter from the nearby Trojan plant, which was contracted by the military to manufacture and recycle bomb materials. The letter said, “Don’t be alarmed…” but if “you use the water from your well for culinary purposes, we ask that you contact us immediately.” For at least 20 years, the Trojan plant discarded waste, including pure RDX, into ponds and an unlined irrigation ditch. Six neighbors, all living within a quarter mile of that ditch, had developed cancer since living there. And they found out the Trojan plant was well aware of the groundwater RDX pollution years before they told the residents. But to hold the company accountable for their cancers — the residents needed to prove the dangers of RDX itself. A professor they hired linked two of the compounds
found in RDX with the type of cancer that several of the Mapleton residents had. He calculated Mapleton had twice as many cases of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and three times as many cases of Leukemia than would have been expected in the area. His team concluded that residents got their cancer by eating food grown with RDX-contaminated water. Vegetables seemed to concentrate the chemicals and amplify their exposure. Calculations suggested eating a carrot from one of their gardens was 286 times worse than simply drinking the RDX contaminated water. But the Mapleton case never made it to trial. In 2002, the plant settled with the families for an undisclosed amount of money, without admitting guilt. And several of the plaintiffs have died. Today the Pentagon continues to manufacture RDX, and uses it widely. And the number of communities that face environmental threats from it has continued to grow. RDX has been found everywhere from wells near Ft. Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, to the drinking water near Kingsport, Tennessee… and the groundwater across an old missile factory near Los Angeles. In fact, for the first time we know the extent of the US military’s role as a polluter. ProPublica got data pinpointing thousands of sites across the country where the government has identified pollution on defense properties. There are more than 150 cases with RDX contamination. For decades, as these cases were documented, the US military claimed immunity from EPA oversight and tried to evade environmental regulations which would force them to clean it up. But in 2012, the EPA decided it would re-assess the risk the chemical posed to people, and so they began a new review on everything we know about RDX. If the EPA decided to regulate RDX as a chemical contaminant, that would mean an enormous increase for the Pentagon’s environmental cleanup bill, which is already at around 70 billion dollars. The final results are still to come. But as the EPA conducts its review, there’s one thing that’s still missing: credible science. If the government wants evidence of whether RDX is connected to cancer, the best way is to replicate the earlier controlled experiments with live mice and rats. But that has never been done. Instead, the Department of Defense has conducted dozens of studies that cast doubt on RDX’ effects, and support the Pentagon’s position
that it poses little public threat. These studies were funded by the military, an agency with a stake in the outcome of the EPA’s decision. So there’s skepticism about the objectivity, but, that doesn’t automatically mean their research isn’t good science. Some were even validated through peer review. Even though the EPA appeared ready, in 2013, to label RDX a likely carcinogen, it is now poised to downplay its risk with a tag that says it’s merely “suggestive” of cancer. The agency is set to decide the fate of RDX next year. Now under the Trump administration, there are concerns that the sole agency responsible for informing the American public about environmental health risks is bowing under pressure from the Department of Defense and the chemical industry.

Tony wyaad

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Jerry Swetlow Posted on June 5, 2019 at 3:24 am

    EPA 2019 Suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential  https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/iris2/chemicalLanding.cfm?substance_nmbr=313

    Reply
  2. Jacob B Walters Posted on June 5, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Somebody better let Acura know these things are dangerous! And to think that I recommended an RDX to my dear aunt when she was car shopping! 😱

    Reply
  3. steve gale Posted on June 12, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Seeing as USA have left their crxp in other countries then they deserve it.

    Reply
  4. Tino Gutierrez Posted on June 17, 2019 at 12:25 am

    5:03 that's my base lol

    Reply
  5. jim jim Posted on June 17, 2019 at 4:43 am

    So the US didnt just poison the rest of the world in the name of freedom/war lol

    Reply
  6. joe dell Posted on June 19, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    this is treason, they betrayed their own citizens, and they have caused much pain and death

    Reply
  7. callumclafferty Posted on June 21, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    If you kill your citizens you don't have to worry about protecting them

    Reply
  8. Jayyy Zeee Posted on June 25, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    These evil people who damage the lives of others will get what's coming to them many times over, in this life or the next.

    Reply
  9. Morahman7vnNo2 Posted on June 29, 2019 at 8:16 am

    This reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns ran for office, and had to eat the three-eyed fish.

    Anyone remember that?

    Reply
  10. FritsM Posted on June 30, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    so … dont eat bombs !!

    Reply
  11. BaKuDan KaIgUn Posted on July 8, 2019 at 3:52 am

    The picture depicted on the title is a practice bomb.

    Reply
  12. MissNebulosity Posted on July 15, 2019 at 2:05 am

    STOP TESTING ON ANIMALS.

    Reply
  13. Hunter Killian Posted on July 20, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Lol RDX? If only everyone knew about all of the VX and sarin we have just lying around rusting in one ton cylinders. Newport, IN alone could level cities into the double digits.

    Reply
  14. Volker Siegel Posted on July 21, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Peer review does not "validate" a studies result. It just determines whether it is good enough to be published. Basically, a journal asks scientists working on similar topics whether it is a study written down in good form at all, not whether it is correct, which is much harder. Peer review acceptance means at most that it looks like it's valid, not that it is valid.

    Reply
  15. judge crater Posted on July 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Many of the first responders who worked around Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack came down with the same cancers as people exposed to RDX. How can that be, RDX wasn't used to demolish the WTC towers. Or was it?

    Reply
  16. Pat Posted on August 2, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    You have got this slightly wrong, my dad was a British Scientist who helped develop RDX in Britain (where it was also mass produced) then the US set up plants to do the same, (the secret was in making it in ‘amorphous’ form NOT crystalline)

    Reply
  17. Snakejacobsen Posted on August 8, 2019 at 6:16 am

    I live in Spanish Fork and I just found out about this rip

    Reply
  18. james murphy Posted on August 9, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Why do you need to reevaluate this dangerous chemical

    Reply
  19. 1 4 Posted on September 9, 2019 at 4:20 am

    I'm happy I am from the PHILIPPINES far from rdx

    Reply
  20. Anthony Lee Posted on September 18, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    The vegetables are so contaminated with concentrated RDX that they detonate when bitten into. This is why so many people are loosing their minds.

    Reply
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