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Air Force Global Strike Command: Vandenberg SFB Environmental Sampling Complete

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  • By Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
  • Air Force Global Strike Command

The Missile Community Cancer Study’s (MCCS) environmental sampling at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, found no instances of contamination above regulatory action levels, Air Force Global Strike Command reported today.

The sampling at Vandenberg SFB assessed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that pose a risk to human health.

Vandenberg SFB is home to AFGSC’s 377th Test and Evaluation Group, which supports missile tests, and Air Education and Training Command’s 532nd Training Squadron, which provides missile training to approximately 450 missile operations officers and enlisted missile maintainers every year. Training takes place in simulators that replicate the launch control centers and launch facilities used at AFGSC’s missile bases. Early in the MCCS, members of the missile community noted that sampling efforts focused only on operational missile bases and did not include any tests at Vandenberg, where evaluators, instructors, cadre and students work in facilities and simulators that are similar to those at the three active missile bases and which could contain the same types of contamination.

In response to the concerns, Gen. Thomas Bussiere, Commander of AFGSC, directed U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) researchers include Vandenberg in its sampling efforts. The sampling was completed in February.

The environmental sampling at Vandenberg was conducted with slightly different parameters than the sampling at AFGSC’s missile bases. Soil and air organophosphate levels were not tested, as those are byproducts of agricultural operations and Vandenberg’s simulators are not located near agricultural land. Drinking water samples of all types were not included, as Vandenberg SFB uses the off-base municipal water system.

PCB surface sampling was conducted using the same swipe method as facilities at active missile bases. Of the 116 swipes collected, three had detectable levels of PCBs, all below the EPA’s threshold for remediation of 10 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. One sample in LF-09 detected 1.53 micrograms per 100 square centimeters, and two samples in MAF-01A detected 1.9 and 1.18 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Because these are below regulatory cleanup levels, no additional remediation is required. These sites will be labeled and access limited to these areas to further limit risk to personnel.

Ninety-day radon sampling was also started as part of the study. Due to the length of time required to analyze those samples, they will be reported when complete.

“Ensuring the most comprehensive assessment of the operational environments our nuclear team operates in, the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s team added our test and training sites at Vandenberg to the MCCS,” said Lt. Gen. Michael J. Lutton, AFGSC Deputy Commander. “Leadership remains committed to a comprehensive, science-based, transparent MCCS serving our nuclear force and families.”

General Bussiere approved a comprehensive study design by USAFSAM in March 2023 to conduct a formal assessment that addresses specific cancer concerns raised by missile community members across related career fields and also examines the possibility of clusters of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other cancers at intercontinental ballistic missile bases.