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May-23-2016 21:56printcomments

RDX Evaluation by US EPA - Why It Matters

EPA downplays RDX toxicity, pleasing the DOD and putting us in peril

RDX explosive
RDX is a nitroamine (organic) high explosive. It is 1.5 times more powerful than TNT (Trinitrotoluene). Photo:

(SALEM, Ore.) - RDX is an explosive which is more powerful than TNT.

RDX (Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine) is not something that available from your local hardware store, but has been used by both the military and terrorists to kill people.

It has seen wide use from World War II through to today, and is considered one of the most powerful explosives used by the military.

RDX is also known as Research Department Formula X, cyclonite, hexogen (particularly in German and German-influenced languages), and T4. In its purest state, RDX is a white, crystalline solid, the base for many common military explosives, including C-4, which is 91% RDX.

I doubt that there is a Veteran out there who hasn’t been exposed to it. In the US, there are over 100 military bases on the EPA National Priority List, a group of the most toxic environments in the country. RDX is a common contaminant on and around military bases because it was and is used in military weapons.

It currently contaminates soil, air and water. According to the CDC, RDX was identified at 31 hazardous waste sites through 2007, but admitted in 2012 that the number of sites that have been evaluated for RDX isn’t even known.

(See CDC Toxicologial Profile at:

There are three routes of exposure to RDX: dermal contact, ingestion in contaminated water, and inhalation. Terrorists have noted the explosive power of RDX and used it to kill. The 1993 Bombay bombings used RDX placed into several vehicles as bombs. RDX was the main component used for the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the Jaipur bombings in 2008.

It is also believed to be the explosive used in the 1999 Russian apartment bombings, 2004 Russian aircraft bombings, and 2010 Moscow Metro bombings.

Ahmed Ressam, the al-Qaeda Millennium Bomber, used a small quantity of RDX as one of the components in the explosives that he prepared to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999/2000; the combined explosives could have produced a blast forty times greater than that of a devastating car bomb.

In July 2012, the Kenyan government arrested two Iranian nationals and charged them with illegal possession of 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of RDX. According to the Kenyan Police, the Iranians planned to use the RDX for "attacks on Israel, US, UK and Saudi Arabian targets".

RDX was used to assassinate Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005.

The EPA just released a draft assessment of RDX toxicity that downplays evidence of cancer. It seriously undermined future federal protections of drinking water and other media. EPA plans to categorized RDX so that it won’t be sufficiently regulated to protect against cancer.

Their denial of strong cancer evidence can undermine claims by Veterans that link RDX exposure to liver and lung cancer.

This failure was the subject of comments by Dr. Ronald Melnick, a retired federal toxicologist who specializes in cancer-causing chemicals. His criticisms were submitted to EPA’s RDX docket last week (Link: Comments on IRIS draft RDX).

In addition to impacts on RDX cleanup, the EPA evaluation basically re-writes federal cancer guidelines, which can broadly undermine cancer evaluations for cancer-causing chemicals.

This no doubt pleased DOD, who were represented at the May EPA public meeting on RDX. An EPA manager said after the meeting that there was consensus across the stakeholders. But he made no mention of the dissenting comments by Dr. Melnick, nor have the criticisms of EPA’s whitewash of cancer evidence been acknowledged to date.

EPA must not employ skewed science that panders to special interests. It is never acceptable for public agencies to ignore their duty to protect the public in order to please the DOD or any other powerful interests.


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