CASE REPORT — Treasure Island Military Burn Pit Exposure

Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD
6 min readMay 27, 2021


Presentation to NIEHS Interagency Coordinating Committee Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) Public Forum May 27, 2021

“We found radiation, contaminated materials, in playgrounds and in areas that had previously been playgrounds…we found it in front yards. We found it underneath sidewalks and along the roadways.” June 2008 Hazard to Children — DocumentCloud

Treasure Island cleanup exposes Navy’s mishandling of its nuclear past — From the bulletin of the Atomic Scientists https://the

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists February 24, 2014 issue details the results of a radiation survey conducted by Navy contractor New World Environmental. NWT radiation specialist Robert McLean reports…”We did not expect to find much, just a year before, a Navy-commissioned historical report suggested there was little likelihood significant radioactive waste would be found on the island. Hundreds of San Francisco residents were living in modest townhouses…with the Navy’s assurances that doing so was perfectly safe. Then, the sensor needle hopped…We picked up readings from inside the truck without even getting out of the vehicle…that first detection was not the last.”

“…They are finding radium sources to 25 mr/hr at many locations on the west side of the island.”

According to an internal email dated June 25, 2008 copied to Kent Prendergast, radiation health division chief for the California Department of Public Health, “McLean reports finding radium pieces that emitted enough radiation for a person at close range to receive, in an hour, five times the maximum radiation a nuclear worker is allowed to absorb in a year.”

“Mr Mclean said he was concerned that the sources could represent a hazard to children or something the bad guys could use to make a dirty bomb.”

The Army Corps of Engineers created Treasure Island (TI) for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The island was slated to become an airport until the Navy seized the land to establish the Treasure Island Naval Station at the entry to World War II. In 1993 TI was decommissioned and by 2007 was being prepared by the Navy for transfer to civilian control. The Environmental Protection Agency assigned a Hazard Ranking Score for Treasure Island that qualified it for listing on the National Priorities List as a federal Superfund site.

The Center for Investigative Reporting obtained proof of Treasure Islands nuclear past from previously classified files at the US National Archives in San Bruno, CA and the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. TI was home to an extensive nuclear training program where the training ship USS Independence was docked — one of 90 target vessels drenched by radioactive fallout in 1946 from two 1946 atomic bomb tests conducted in Bikini Atoll and hauled back to Treasure Island and the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

These archives document radiological “academies” operated on TI that instructed Navy personnel in radiation detection, instrument repair, ship decontamination and damage control. Samples of cesium 137, tritium, plutonium, cadmium, cobalt, strontium and krypton were stored on site.

Shot Baker — Operation Crossroads July 1946 — target ships were hauled back for decontamination to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The USS Independence was docked at TI. Shot Baker was the second test detonated 90 feet underwater on July 25, 1946 producing a “spectacular display that wreaked havoc on a 90 vessel fleet of ships and spewed thousands of tons of water into the air according to Manhattan Project: Operation Crossroads, Bikini Atoll
Navy operations identifies the location of two Solid Waste Disposal Areas on Treasure Island in regions where modest townhomes house vulnerable residents. On February 12, 2014 a neighbor sent Kathryn Lundgren a redlined document his research had unearthed from the California Department of Public Health website documenting the presence of military burn pits — called SWDA’s -on nearby Site 12.

By 2014 the evidence was irrefutable — Treasure Island was the site of what the Veterans Administration calls military burn pit and what the US Navy on TI calls solid waste disposal areas or SWDA’s.

Investigative journalist Carol Harvey identified a radioactive burn pit located near a Treasure Island home in 2014.

TI resident Kathryn Lundgren learned on January 29, 2014 that an area next to her home was the site of a U.S. Navy base burn pit where “toxic radioactive and chemical contaminants were incinerated as trash, leaving behind radioactive “hot commodities”.

Lundgren describes the serious unexplained symptoms her three children complained of beginning in 2011 in a YouTube interview at

Radiation history on Treasure Island more widespread than reported — Regions in yellow are newly identified sites, regions in red are regions of unsafe and elevated radiation levels.

Burn pits are open air uncontrolled areas used as a means to dispose of metals, rubber, chemicals, paint, munitions, unexploded ordinance, petroleum products and human waste. Burn pits emit toxic substances and carcinogens. Human exposure to airborne toxins characteristically affect the eyes, skin, cardiorespiratory system and GI tract and can lead to chronic medical conditions:

What are the Dangers of Burn Pit Exposure? -Hill & Ponton,
Open radiation contaminated burn pit on TI separating nearby residents by unreinforced chain link fence
Initial exposure symptoms commonly involve the eyes, skin, throat and airways with eye irritation and burning, coughing, difficulty breathing, skin itching. The VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry describes these as symptoms of burn pit exposure.

In the late afternoon on April 24, 2021 a 65 year old disabled senior was in a wheelchair with her daughter and small dog strolling along the western perimeter of Treasure Island near a known military burn pit or SWDA.

A 12 year very low income TI resident, she was wearing a multilayered face mask and heavy clothing as she approached the area of exposure. The wind was high as is common on TI. NOAA graphs wind speeds on TI in late April as high as 20mph.

Her eyes began to water as she experienced particle sensations that led to redness that spread to involve her face, neck and shoulders. Her lips and hands began to swell. These are classic symptoms the Veterans Administration Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry describe as being caused by burn pit exposure.

She went immediately home and washed herself thoroughly. Her small dog licked at her paws as if they were painful and she also bathed her pet. Isolated on an island and disabled by a spinal injury, she was not able to seek immediate emergency care. The symptoms subsided and she scheduled appointments with her primary care doctor and an eye doctor.

She contacted the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program and requested an urgent environmental health evaluation and urine toxic exposure test. During the extensive intake evaluation she expressed her belief she had been “exposed to napalm.”

Photos of face and hands taken by TI resident in the immediate aftermath of a burn pit exposure.
Urinary toxic exposure screening detects aluminum, cesium, nickel, rubidium, thallium, and manganese in high normal to toxic concentrations compounded by deficiencies in the nutrient elements iron, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur. Gadolinium detected in toxic concentrations may be due to its use as a contrast agent in soft tissue MRI scans. Gadolinium is also used for neutron shielding of nuclear submarines and is naturally occurring in the serpentinite rock and soil the TI perimeter is derived from. The HPS Historical Radiological Assessment documents Gadolinium was used by the Naval Radiological Research Laboratories at Hunters Point.

The EPA environmental justice mapping tool EJSCREEN confirms TI to be a site with numerous environmental indicators exceeding the 95th percentile when compared with the US population and a NATA air toxics hazard index exceeding the 95th percentile

EPA EJSCREEN Treasure Island NATA Respiratory Hazard Index

The public health impacts of the burn pit exposure on Treasure Island warranted confidential reporting to the office of the District Supervisor, to the Navy Environmental Remediation Manager and to the San Francisco Health Commission and Health Director Grant Colfax.

Aude Bouagnon, PhD — UCSF Medical Student, neuroscientist and student representative Physicians for Social Responsibility speaks flanked by Earth Day host Arieann Harrison on the left -daughter of Marie Harrison “Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement in Bayview Hunters Point.

On Earth Day, April 22, 2–21 community leaders and residents at Treasure Island and Hunters Point joined a demonstration on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to call for the declaration of a local public health emergency under Health & Safety Code Section 10108 regulation enacted to facilitate “the immediate response to hazardous materials and spills and any imminent and proximate threat of the introduction of any contagious, infectious or communicable disease, chemical agent, noncommunicable biologic agent, toxin or radioactive element.”

Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment

January 20, 2021 — Presidential Actions



Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD

Founder, Director, PI - HP Biomonitoring/ Founding Chair- Radiological Committee Hunters Point Shipyard RAB 2001, Former Attending MD VA Toxic Registry & SFDPH