Unsafe levels of a carcinogen have been discovered at a nuclear missile base in Montana after the area experienced a spike in cancer case numbers, the Air Force Global Strike Command announced Monday.

A carcinogen is a “substance, organism or agent capable of causing cancer,” a category that includes naturally occurring things like UV rays or those created by human production, like cigarette smoke, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The announcement said an immediate cleanup effort was ordered after bioenvironmental experts reported polychlorinated biphenyls was found in samples taken from Malmstrom Air Force Base Aug. 4.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, often called simply PCBs, are hazardous, manmade substances that were banned in the U.S. in 1977 for their potential ability to cause cancer, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press said the samples taken found PCB levels in two facilities located at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in central Montana exceeded thresholds recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, said in the announcement, “I directed Twentieth Air Force to take immediate measures to begin the cleanup process for the affected facilities and mitigate exposure by our airmen and guardians to potentially hazardous conditions.”

He added, “These measures will stay in place until I am satisfied that we are providing our missile community with a safe and clean work environment.”

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This was the first time experts tested samples gathered “from an extensive sampling of active U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile bases to address specific cancer concerns raised by missile community members across related career fields,” the announcement said.

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International Ballistic Missiles community

Torchlight Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the health concerns of those within the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles community, said that “at least 268 troops who served at nuclear missile sites, or their surviving family members, have self-reported being diagnosed with cancer, blood diseases or other illnesses over the past several decades,” per The Associated Press article.

Of those reported cases, at least 217 were confirmed cancer cases, the AP added.

The Air Force Medical Service said the sample testing is part of the Missile Community Cancer Study, an assessment that addresses the cancer concerns within the ICBM community and “examines the possibility of clusters of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at intercontinental ballistic missile bases.”

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