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Navy resumes sinking old warships, despite environmental concerns

For decades, men and women signed up for the Navy without knowing how their service would affect their health years later. Across the country, veterans of the Navy are getting sick and dying from lung cancers and asbestosis that can be linked, often, to working in ships with asbestos-laden materials.

Older warships often contained many toxic chemicals. Besides asbestos, vessels also contained polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs which are also linked to cancer in humans. The United States banned the use of PCBs in 1979 when the significance of the danger was discovered. The PCBs are long-lasting and are also passed down and accumulated through the food chain.

Despite the presence of these materials and the concerns associated with their release into the environment, the Navy has resumed a controversial practice. Before 2010, the Navy was using old warships and vessels as target practice. They were hit with torpedoes and bombs as military exercises. The ships then sink and eventually become ghost ships in the oceans. After a brief hiatus, the Navy has restarted the practice.

Those opposed to the exercise want these ships, which can contain hundreds of pounds of PCBs and asbestos, to be recycled instead of destroyed and left in the ocean. The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the Navy to remove as much of the toxic materials from the ships as possible, but they still end up sinking a ship that contains high levels of PCBs and asbestos which are then released into the oceans.

The fact that asbestos continues to be a concern on naval ships is disappointing. Veterans continue to suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Now, current members of the military are sinking the very same vessels where veterans were exposed to deadly toxins. Instead of sending them to the bottom of an ocean forever, officials should work to properly eradicate the dangerous equipment once and for all.

Source: Fox News, "Navy to resume sinking old ships in US waters," July 2, 2012

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