More than 300 U.S. military sites are known or likely to have discharged firefighting foam containing the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to Defense Department data compiled and mapped by EWG.
This map shows 305 sites, in all 50 states, where for more than five decades military regulations required the use of PFAS-based Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, or AFFF, during training exercises. At 167 of the sites, water sampling and laboratory tests have confirmed that PFAS chemicals have contaminated drinking water or ground water on or near the bases. This means that further testing could find PFAS contamination at some or all of the other 138 sites.
Studies have linked the two most notorious PFAS chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, reproductive and immune system problems, and other serious health harms. Because they build up in the human body and do not break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "forever chemicals."
Since the 1960s, the Pentagon has used AFFF on bases and on naval ships to fight fires. By the mid-1970s at the latest, both the Navy and the 3M Company, which together developed AFFF, were aware of environmental and human health concerns with PFAS chemicals. The Pentagon started phasing out the use of firefighting foam containing PFOA and PFOS only in 2015, and continues to use foams with closely related PFAS chemicals that may be just as harmful.
The history of the Defense Department’s use of these foams and its knowledge of their dangers is detailed in an EWG investigation here.
The 305 sites include 166 Air Force sites, 61 Army sites, 75 Navy sites and three Defense Logistics Agency sites. The sites were identified in a 2014 Defense Department inventory of all the fire and crash training sites on bases in the U.S. and its territories. The 167 sites with confirmed PFAS contamination were identified by EWG through Freedom of Information Act requests, Defense Department reports and public databases.
Locations marked on the map are approximate, determined by using Defense Department addresses for the sites.