Military personnel in Hawaii suffer headaches and diarrhea after drinking fuel-contaminated water
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the extent of symptoms among military families in Hawaii following the oil spill at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii.
Of those who responded to the voluntary online survey, 87 percent said they had new or worsening symptoms following the Nov. 20 fuel spill that contaminated Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Navy’s water system. The system supplies water to approximately 9,694 naval, army, air force and civilian households. Of those surveyed, 75 percent said their symptoms lasted 30 days or more.
“These findings underscore the need to prevent exposure to petroleum products and could help public health professionals and clinicians identify and respond to future similar incidents,” said the report, which was compiled by the CDC and published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of May 27 .
The Jan. 7-February 10 survey was open to anyone in the affected region following the incident, and 88 percent of those surveyed were military personnel. At least one person in each of 1,389 households participated in the survey, accounting for approximately 14 percent of the households surveyed, and a total of 2,289 people responded. Parents and guardians completed the study for children under 18 years of age.
The most commonly reported symptoms were related to the nervous system (62 percent), including 58 percent of respondents who reported headaches. Other symptoms related to the gastrointestinal system (58 percent); skin (58 percent); ear, nose and throat (47 percent); mental health (46 percent), eyes (42 percent), and respiratory system (31 percent). Many reported more than one symptom.
Within these seven categories of symptoms, there were 32 different specific symptoms. For example, the nervous system category included headache, dizziness/drowsiness, seizures/convulsions, fatigue, unconsciousness/fainting, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty remembering things.
Of the 1,980 who experienced new or worsening symptoms after exposure, 80 percent reported improvement after switching to an alternative water source.
The symptoms reported in the survey “were consistent with previous studies of exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons,” the authors wrote, adding that participants’ reports that their symptoms lessened after switching to a different water source supported the conclusion that the health problems related to exposure.
Of those surveyed, 37 percent – 853 – said they sought medical assistance, including 17 who were hospitalized overnight.
A much larger number of residents actually sought medical help, based on Navy figures. In January, Pacific Fleet surgeon Captain Michael McGinnis told lawmakers that medical providers had evaluated more than 5,900 patients with symptoms consistent with an acute environmental exposure event. He said these symptoms “quickly disappeared” once the patients were removed from the polluted water.
On November 28, military families reported smelling fuel and seeing an oily film in their tap water. But some had reported mysterious stomach pains, vomiting, memory loss, skin rashes, eye irritation and tooth and gum problems even before the signs of fuel showed up. The Hawaii Department of Health issued a drinking water recommendation on November 30. The Navy and other branches of service offered all affected families temporary accommodation in local hotels, while a multi-agency team of experts designed and oversaw a massive operation to flush out the Navy’s water distribution system, including homes, schools, child development centers and all other buildings.
On March 18, the final area was cleared and officials said it was safe to drink and use the water again. Residents who had left their homes returned. Officials will continue to test and monitor the water for the next two years.
- 52 percent reported at least one sensory indication that their water was contaminated, such as: B. Petroleum smell or taste or visible oil sheen. But a higher percentage of people showed symptoms, and some residents have raised questions about how long the fuel was in the water.
- 93 percent switched to an alternative water source after learning about the fuel leak incident.
- Participants reported ingesting the potentially contaminated water through oral hygiene (80 percent), drinking (72 percent), and cooking (71 percent).
In an open comment section, 53 people raised concerns about possible long-term health effects. The report’s authors noted that exposure levels, duration and long-term health effects are uncertain.
“Additional follow-up of the affected population could improve understanding of the overall health impact of this and other petroleum exposure incidents,” the authors wrote.
Defense officials have established an incident registry to include anyone who may have been exposed to this contaminated water event.
“This incident report will be available for future action, research or analysis to ensure we are tracking the long-term health of those potentially exposed,” Navy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham said in written testimony before the Defense Subcommittee on Budget Appropriations 25 .May.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/27/hawaii-military-families-suffer-headaches-diarrhea-after-drinking-fuel-tainted-water/ Military personnel in Hawaii suffer headaches and diarrhea after drinking fuel-contaminated water