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Japan, US defence officials discuss chemical contamination near American bases

Japan, US defence officials discuss chemical contamination near American bases

The issue of the chemical contamination around the American military bases located in Japa became the central topic of discussions between the Japanese and American top defence officials. As the Japanese Ministry of Defense NHK reports, top officials met at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

For Japan, the issue of contamination of its soils with perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is vital, said Defense Minister Taro Kono during his meeting with the acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The two defence bosses had a meeting on Tuesday to find a solution on how to cooperate in responding to issues such as chemical contamination. In fact, Tokyo officials detected the PFOS/PFOA in two wells near Yokota Air Base during a survey from December 2018 to January 2019, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health.

Both PFOS/PFOA are used in cleaning products and in the type of firefighting foam used at airfields. Tokyo officials confirmed chemicals detection near Yokota at levels about 19 times above the safe standard set by a U.S. drinking water health advisory.

Although, an official with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government last week said no evidence was found to directly link the pollutants with a source on the American airbase.

The US airbases as the source of pollutants for Japanese soil

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists classified PFOA as a “confirmed animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans,” according to the EPA.

In addition, both PFOS/PFOA were also found at high levels in untreated spring water near Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in 2018. The above-mentioned chemicals have proved toxic in tests on animals, affecting their developmental and reproductive systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After Tuesday meeting, both top defence officials have agreed their respective governments should work together to create a task force for handling toxic chemicals.

“They reaffirmed that the understanding and cooperation of people living near bases are essential for US forces in Japan to maintain readiness in the increasingly harsh regional security environment,” NHK reported.