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Thursday, July 4, 2002


Spread of US bases toxic waste feared

By Ma. Catalina M. Tolentino

Is the toxic waste contamination at Clark Air Base spreading beyond the identified contaminated sites?

Health statistics indicate that di­seases common among the toxic waste victims at Clark Air Base reflect in the 10 leading diseases in Angeles City. The data appears to reinforce the theory that toxic waste contamination could be spreading outside the affected communities and threatening public health in Pampanga.

Statistics obtained from the Angeles City Health Office showed that cancer and renal failure were among the 10 leading causes of mortality in the city from 1998 to 2001.

Cancer consistently ranked number two. Data reflect the records of major hospitals of Pampanga, which are located in Angeles City.

From the government-owned Ospital ng Angeles (ONA), Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) ranked numbers four and three as a cause for consultation in 2000 and 2001; while abortion/miscarriage ranked numbers two and four as a leading cause for confinement in the same years cited.

ONA medical staff likewise observed an increasing number of out-patients complaining of skin diseases in recent months.

Dr. Enrico Ragaza, a cancer surgeon at the National Kidney Institute, said environmental pollution is one major cause of cancer, as well as of respiratory and skin di­seases.

He said the possibility that toxic waste has spread through the water table should not be ruled out as a contributory factor in the incidence of the diseases.

Migration of contaminants is possible, according to the report “Environmental Review of the Drawdown Activities at Clark Air Base.” It said the period of waste seepage to groundwater could range from one month to 25 years.

Nephrologist Dr. Rene Molina observed a 10 percent increase from 2000 to 2001 in the number of kidney patients in three major hospitals he serves in Pampanga — Angeles University Foundation, Angeles Medical Center and Armando Garcia Medical Center.

“If patients are exposed to contaminated drinking water, this aggravates the kidney diseases” which are often triggered by diabetes and a high salt diet, said Molina.

Myrla Baldonado, Executive Director of the People’s Task Force Bases Cleanup said studies done in 1996 by Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Rosalie Bartell concluded a relationship between poor water quality and the incidence of kidney and urinary tract infections, respiratory and nervous system disorders.

Bartell noted an unusually high incidence of female UTI and nervous system disorders at CABCOM and other communities nearest to the dump sites.

The book “Inheritors of the Earth,” published in 2000, documented the medical cases at Clark and provided testimonies of former Filipino CAB employees attesting to the unsafe waste disposal system.

The employees described Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) lea­­king transformers, underground wires protected by asbestos pipes, and chemical wastes “placed in empty barrels brought to a dumpsite where only Americans were allowed to enter”.

Sesinando Guevarra, a contractor on military waste disposal, also attested that the Americans dumped as many as two ten-wheeler trucks of chemicals per month, burying these in eight-foot deep holes in the ground. According to him, as much as 100 hectares of land were used as dumping ground.

As early as 1991, chemical wastes had been known to exist in Clark, based on an environmental assessment prepared by the Pacific Air Force Environmental Committee.

The assessment report “Environmental Review of the Drawdown Activities at Clark Air Base” was conducted in the aftermath of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

But even prior to the Pinatubo disaster, one well called Well 12 had “shown indications of trace solvent contaminants above the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) of the Safe Drinking Water Act”.


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Francis Andaya, Judee Perculeza, Marizhen Doctora
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