A Summary of ATSDR’s environmental health evaluations for the Isla de Vieques Bombing Range, Vieques, Puerto Rico [executive summary]
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A Summary of ATSDR’s environmental health evaluations for the Isla de Vieques Bombing Range, Vieques, Puerto Rico [executive summary]

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    The mission of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is to serve the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and disease related to toxic substances.

    In May 1999, an island resident asked ATSDR to evaluate whether any health problems in Vieques residents might be associated with potential releases of hazardous substances from military training activities on the island. These activities included live bombing exercises conducted by the U.S. Navy. The Navy owned approximately one-half of Vieques until May 2003.

    The bombing exercises occurred in an area of about 900 acres on the eastern end of Vieques, known as the Live Impact Area. The Navy ceased its live bombing exercises in April 1999, but conducted exercises with practice bombs from May 2000 to May 2003. Residents have voiced concern that contaminants from the bombing could travel from the Live Impact Area to the areas where they live.

    Teams of ATSDR scientists and staff have visited Vieques more than 10 times. During these visits, ATSDR toured the areas owned by the Navy, met with Vieques residents and officials to identify health concerns, and collected relevant data and site information. ATSDR also visited the main island of Puerto Rico to meet with scientists and government officials and to gather information from them.

    ATSDR identified the following ways residents living on Vieques could potentially be exposed to contamination:

    • Drinking water.

    • Contacting soil.

    • Eating seafood.

    • Breathing air.

    ATSDR evaluated each of these exposure pathways in a separate public health assessment. This flyer briefly summarizes ATSDR’s findings.

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