Cancer

published : 2023-10-14

Toxic Gas Found in Air Force Base Day Care Center Goes Unaddressed for Over a Year

Whiteman Air Force Base officials downplay cancer risk despite elevated levels of radon

A photo of children playing in a daycare center, captured with a Nikon D850.

A Missouri Air Force base is under scrutiny after it failed to take action on test results that revealed elevated levels of radon in the day care facility.

In a memo addressed to all Whiteman Air Force Base personnel, it was revealed that a 2022 radon sampling at the base's child development center found higher-than-accepted levels in the baby and toddler rooms, yet no action was taken until a September 2023 audit.

The memo, confirmed as authentic by the Air Force, stated that the results were recorded and submitted to the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine but were not acted upon.

The measurement in the baby room was recorded as 1.24 WLM/year (working level month per year), while the toddler room had a reading of 6.33 WLM/year, both exceeding the exposure limit of 0.8 WLM/year.

An Air Force officer conducting radon testing in a room, taken with a Canon EOS R6.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer, and it cannot be detected by human senses.

Exposure to radon increases the risk of developing lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. after smoking.

Whiteman Air Force Base announced that additional testing will be conducted, the affected rooms will be closed, and consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency will be sought for mitigation techniques.

The base is also working with the child development center to identify potentially affected individuals and has set up an appointment system for exposed children to seek care.

A group of concerned parents discussing the potential health risks of radon exposure at a meeting, photographed with a Sony A7 III.

The Air Force spokesperson reassured parents that the risk of developing lung cancer as a result of exposure at the Child Development Center is significantly less than 1%.

An investigation is underway to understand how the oversight occurred, and regular updates will be provided to the community.