Veterans blame possible exposure to toxic pesticides for mystery illnesses
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of more than 100 veterans who served in Kunia are suffering from neurological issues, cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
And they say their mystery medical issues all stem from exposure to toxic pesticides. That conclusion isn’t without controversy, but they’re hoping to appeal to the White House for help.
Tara Lemieux, 50, of Maryland, suffers from hand tremors, memory loss and other health problems.
She believes it stems from her days as an Army specialist from 1991 to 1995 at the Kunia “Tunnel” Field Station near Schofield Barracks.
Lemieux says nine out of the 12 members of her unit have died young.
"They didn't tell us that this beautiful absolutely picturesque once in a lifetime duty station that there was another side to it," said Lemieux.
Back then, the three-story underground National Security Agency facility sat below Del Monte pineapple fields.
Lamieux believes she was directly exposed to toxic chemicals in 1991 when a broken water well flooded the underground facility. She and a handful of others were waist deep in water that was oily and smelled like chemicals.
She quickly developed open sores all over her body.
"They were about the size of half dollars. They developed into an open wound, healed and wouldn't heal. My father came to visit me in Hawaii and he said those are chemical burns. We need to get your treatment outside of the military system," said Lemieux.
Army veteran Matthew Lamb, of Texas, says he has 23 medical conditions after working in the “tunnel” when he was a young man in the mid 80s.
“I have so many of my brothers and sisters that are dealing with the same thing. We’re not getting any help and they should be helping us,” he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, says the main threat at the Kunia Field Station was from mold and humidity.
It says Del Monte did not use pesticides near the the facility. PCBs and lead contamination were found in two spots in the soil, but testing showed no human or environmental threats.
Still, the Kunia veterans are connecting to others online ― at www.kuniaexposure.com ― and social media and they’re warning others about their plight.
They’re also petitioning for President Trump to help all veterans impacted by toxic chemicals through full disclosure and recognition.
Scientists have tied agricultural chemicals to a cancer spike at Kunia plantation village and pesticides used on pineapple fields contaminated Oahu's milk supply in the early 1980s.
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