Navy concludes Naples health assessment
June 10, 2011
NAPLES, Italy — The U.S. Navy has concluded a three-year health assessment in Naples that was undertaken in response to concerns about years of inadequate trash disposal and potential exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The health evaluation, which started in January 2008, analyzed samples of water, soil, air and foods to which U.S. and NATO servicemembers are exposed.
While some feedback showed the presence of some harmful contaminants in some areas, generally taking precautions can mitigate any serious health risks, according to fact sheets released Friday by the Navy and posted on the website: www.cnic.navy.mil/Naples/About/HealthAwareness.
Residents living off base have been cautioned to drink, cook and brush their teeth only with bottled water since July 2008, and that advisory will continue permanently, the Navy said. Also in 2008, the housing office revised rental contracts for off-base housing, requiring landlords to provide tenants with bottled drinking water service and to routinely clean home water systems. A permanent water distribution site exists at the Capodichino base where residents can collect free drinking water.
In November 2008, the Navy imposed “New Lease Suspension Zones,” areas in which a majority of homes are supplied by well water, some illegal, and more prone to containing contaminants. While most servicemembers living in the zones were not required to move out, the policy barred incoming troops from renting there. Some families living in certain parts of Casal di Principe, however, were required to move because of the presence of a volatile chemical that posed risk from inhalation and could not be mitigated by drinking bottled water.
Keeping those zones off limits will remain in effect indefinitely, Navy officials said.
Experts found lead in a limited number of homes and that arsenic was widespread, common in volcanic areas, according to the fact sheets, which recommend drinking bottled water. The fact sheet experts concluded “tap water from municipal suppliers was typically safe.”
For decades, Naples has been plagued by a waste disposal problem. Neapolitans repeatedly have voted down governmental attempts to build incinerators, citing adverse health concerns — but then set fire to mounds of garbage that line the streets.
The Navy’s assessment concluded that “the risks associated with ambient air were not significantly greater on days when trash was burned than on days when trash was not burned,” according to a summary fact sheet. Many of the containments likely were associated with diesel or gasoline exhaust, industrial emissions or agricultural burning.
Results of two asthma epidemiological studies concluded air pollution did not increase the number of asthma patients, however on days of high pollution, people already suffering from the respiratory illness were diagnosed with worse symptoms.
A food study in 2008 of locally provided vegetables and chicken sold at the commissary on bases concluded the food is safe to eat.
The Navy will host three open houses next week where experts will be available to answer questions. One will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Capodichino Ciao Hall; another 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the support site community center; the third 10 a.m. to noon Friday in the hospital’s atrium.