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Global Strike Command Reports F.E. Warren ICBM PCB Survey Results

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

A team of bioenvironmental experts reported the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) sampling results from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, Aug. 22, 2023, the second from an extensive sampling of active U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile bases to address specific cancer concerns raised by missile community members across related career fields.

The testing, conducted by the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and the Defense Centers for Public Health (USAFSAM-DCPH), collected air and swipe samples from Launch Control Centers (LCCs) and Launch Control Support Buildings. All air samples were non-detectable for PCBs. Of the 300 surface swipe samples, 17 found detectable levels of PCBs, all below the threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for mitigation.

Of the 600 total surface samples tested at F.E. Warren AFB and Malmstrom AFB, two samples, or approximately 0.33%, were above EPA guidelines for PCB mitigation, both at Malmstrom. In addition, 6.3% of samples from the two bases returned any detectable level of PCBs. None of the air samples at either base have detected any airborne PCBs.

“We want to ensure our Airmen always have a safe and clean work environment. I directed the Twentieth Air Force to clean surfaces at F.E. Warren where even trace amounts of PCBs were detected, even though the levels are well below EPA standards for mitigation,” said Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, Air Force Global Strike Commander.

Air and surface swipe test results are still pending from samples taken at Minot AFB, North Dakota. Results for completed ground and water samplings from all three ICBM bases are also yet to be finalized. When these results are finalized, the USAFSAM-DCPH team will analyze the results in aggregate to guide a comprehensive and holistic response including recommended actions in the future.

The USAFSAM-DCPH surface tests measure PCB levels in micrograms, or one-millionths of a gram. The EPA requires mitigation when PCB levels are detected above 10 micrograms in a 100 square centimeter sample, an area about the size of human palm.

Although PCB manufacture was banned in 1979, they are long-lasting chemicals and can still be found widely throughout the environment. According to Col. Gregory Coleman, AFGSC Surgeon General, the FDA sets tolerances for PCBs in food and food packaging. Fish products may contain no more than 2 parts per million of PCBs, for instance.

All of the surfaces tested at F.E. Warren with detectable PCB levels were below 4 micrograms per 100 square centimeters.

"We are still early in our comprehensive study of any potential health impacts to our Airmen and Guardians as a result of duty in the missile community, and we deeply appreciate the survey team’s efforts and hard work,” said Bussiere. “Many other tests are still being performed by our medical and bioenvironmental professionals, and as we get those results, we will provide updates to our Airmen and families in a rapid and transparent manner.”

In addition to his pledge of open and transparent communication for the study, Bussiere said he will continue to hold townhalls with currently serving Airmen and Guardians to provide more opportunities for two-way communication between medical and scientific experts and the missile community.

More information about PCBs:

More information about the Missile Community Cancer Study: