Calalang, C; Nieto, E; Maramba, N

The issue of toxic wastes in the former U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines is an important issue that needs to be properly addressed. Clark Air Base Command (CABCOM), a former motor pool inside the air base in Pampanga was used by the government as temporary evacuation center to some 35,000 victims of a volcanic eruption since 1992. Their health was at risk, so, to establish baseline data on the effects of selected chemicals on their health, a descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted among 32 residents of CABCOM representing 19 households chosen through systematic random sampling from August-December 1999. There were 19 (59%) adults and 13 (41%) children. Eight (25%) subjects had elevated blood lead levels, all of whom were adults. The average blood lead level for children was 6.75 ug/dl and 18.74 ug/dl for the adults. Four pregnant women had high lead levels ranging from 20-22ug/dl. Eight (8) out of 19 adult respondents had previous history of spontaneous abortion which can be attributed with lead or mercury. Five (5) out of 13 children were underweight while 8 were stunted, which can be associated with lead. Six (6) adults had gingival lines which can be due to lead or mercury. Hemoglobin level was decreased among 7 children and 13 adults. Likewise, 12 children and 16 adults had decreased level of reticulocyte count. Peripheral blood smear was abnormal among 12 subjects. These hematological pictures can be associated with lead and benzene. Seven (22%) subjects had abnormal sulfhemoglobin level, 6 of whom were children, which can be attributed with nitrate. Five (5) subjects had increased urinary coproporphyrin level, which can be due to lead and mercury. Hair samples were subjected to Total Mercury Determination among 15 subjects. The mean level was 0.94 ng/mg and all of them had normal levels.

Although the levels of the different chemicals in the environmental sampling were within the recommended standards, we cannot totally ruleout the possibility of association of these chemicals with the physical and laboratory findings of the subjects for we have to consider different factors such as bioaccumulation especially for heavy metals. The presence of hematologic, reproductive and developmental problems seem to indicate that there is a source of exposure in the area.

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