The Navy Uncovered Strontium — 90…and they want you to think it’s okay. It’s not!

The Navy has detected Strontium — 90 and Plutonium — 239 in massive concentrations along the shipyards shoreline and they have no plans to clean it up. Table 4–3 of the Final Feasibility Study Addendum documents Strontium-90 levels 26 times higher than background and Plutonium -239 levels 44 times higher than background. [https://www.committeetobridgethegap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/CBG_Parcel_F_Comments.pdf

It is a rare moment indeed at the Hunters Point Shipyard when the U.S. Navy publicly admits it has uncovered a dangerous bone seeking radionuclide with a half life of 28.9 years in concentrations exceeding those set to protect human life and safety at a federal Superfund site.

Strontium 90 is formed by nuclear explosions and is considered to be the most dangerous component of nuclear fallout by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. High levels of radioactive strontium damage bone marrow, cause anemia and blood clotting disorders.

Navy chemists detected Strontium — 90 in samples obtained on a shipyard parcel in concentrations above the remediation goal set for public safety. When they reanalyzed two of the samples…Voila…the high Strontium — 90 concentrations magically went away!

That would be the end of the story except that guided by EPA and regulatory input, the Navy has decided to “refine” its methods of Strontium — 90 detection by increasing the size of the soil sample to 2.5 grams and extend the laboratory analysis by seven days. The Navy will reanalyze all samples using this updated method according to a Fact Sheet released to the public on October 21, 2021.

[https://www.bracpmo.navy.mil/content/dam/bracpmo/california/former_naval_shipyard_hunters_point/pdfs/all_documents/environmental_documents/HPNS_202111021_Sr90_FAQ.pdf]

The Department of the Navy is a military organization…not a public health organization. The mission of the Navy is to “maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”

The Navy Fact sheet concludes by asking if you should be concerned about Strontium — 90 at the shipyard:

Navy heavy equipment operations at the radiation contaminated Parcel E-2 shoreline and landfill within feet of an unreinforced chain metal fence line that separates the most dangerous regions of the base from a dense residential neighborhood. The major intersection of 3rd Street and Palou is less than a mile away!
The Navy inflates clean up levels by using Hunters Point ambient levels that are thousands of times higher than background. By simply comparing the maximum detected concentration of a radionuclide with background it is evident Strontium -90 is being detected in concentrations 26 times higher than background in this table from the Parcel F Feasibility Study Addendum January 2016
Radionuclides of Concern at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard identified by the Historical Radiological Assessment

“The 2006 National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII report concluded the existing scientific evidence is consistent with the linear no-threshold model of radiation-induced cancers. According to LNT, every fraction of ionizing radiation, no matter how small, constitutes an increased cancer risk (linear with the dose). The LNT model is the basis for current radiation regulation. “ Health Impacts of Low Dose Ionizing Radiation: Current Scientific Debate and Regulatory Issues [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6149023]

Strontium — 90./Fact/FactRepublic.com

Strontium — 90 is a bone seeker. It is chemically similar to calcium and when inhaled your body deposits it in your bones where it emits damaging beta radiation particles to your bone marrow. Beta radiation is emitted within a short range making it most harmful if inhaled or swallowed and may lead to bone cancer or leukemia. A Toxicological profile for Strontium — 90 was developed by ATSDR that examined biomarkers of exposure and effect and methods for reducing toxic effects.

Strontium 85 and 90 Poisoning-https://www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/strontium/

Strontium 85 emits gamma rays. It has been abandoned from use to detect bone uptake in radiographic imaging. Radioactive strontium can be absorbed into the bones of small children. Large doses replace calcium in bone and lead to renal failure, bone deformity and tumors.

Elemental strontium detected by the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program in potentially toxic concentrations of 368 mcg/g (47–348) along with an “aggregate” of dangerous chemicals.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies the most serious hazardous waste sites in the nation. These sites make up the National Priorities List (NPL) — sites targeted for long-term federal cleanup activities. Strontium and strontium — 90 have been found in at least 102 of the 1,636 current NPL sites.” [https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp159.pdf]

According to EPA Facts About Strontium — 90, the most common isotope of strontium is Strontium — 90. Radioactive Strontium — 90 is produced when uranium and plutonium undergo fission. Fission is the process whereby the nucleus of a radionuclide breaks down into smaller parts. Large amounts of radioactive strontium were produced during nuclear weapons testing.

The half life is the time required for a radioactive substance to lose 50 percent of its radioactivity by decay. Strontium is not stable and the release of radiation caused by its decay is a concern because beta particles can pass through skin. Of greater concern is the ability of strontium to become part of the food chain particularly in calcium containing dairy products like milk and cheese. EPA has made recommendations to protect human health at Superfund sites in the fact sheet “Primer on Radionuclides Commonly Found at Superfund Sites.” EPA has established a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 millirems per year for beta particles from man-made radionuclides. [https://semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/176328.pdf]

“If you drink much from a bottle marked “poison” it is certain to disagree with you…sooner or later.” Lewis Carrol — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD, PD - Medical Director & PI. Founding Chair- Radiological Committee Hunters Point Shipyard RAB Attending MD VA Toxic Registry and SFDPH