This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, High Country News, ICT, Mongabay, and Native News Online.
In April 2020, a barbecue held at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, a small Japanese island just east of Taiwan, accidentally triggered the release of 60,000 gallons of firefighting foam. There was no fire, but much of the foam spread throughout the nearby residential area, sliding through streets and floating into a stream.
The foam contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” Used in a wide variety of consumer products, PFAS have been found in air, water, and the blood streams of humans and animals across the world and can impact health causing low birth weights, cancer, and liver damage.
More than 15 percent of Okinawa is occupied by American and Japanese military bases. In 2022, water tests conducted by the government of Okinawa revealed PFAS levels up to 42 times higher than Japan’s ... Read more