Border Patrol Union: Equipment Operation Connected to 8 Cancer Cases

Posted: Updated: Jun 14, 2017 02:56 PM

WESLACO – The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Union is urging agents working with certain equipment to check in with their personal doctors.

According to a message to its members, the union stated there were at least seven confirmed cases of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma and one case of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma among agents who primarily had Backscatter/VACIS duties at checkpoints in the El Paso sector. VACIS, which stands for "Vehicle and Container Inspection System," uses gamma-ray technology to looking into cargo containers.

Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Union spokesperson Chris Cabrera told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the Falfurrias and Sarita checkpoints use this same equipment.

In their statement, union officials said, “Unfortunately, El Paso Sector and OBP Headquarters management have known about this issue for a significant period of time and they have not addressed it, nor, to our knowledge, have Border Patrol agents nationwide been advised of the issue.”

Union officials wrote, “(W)e urge Border Patrol agents who have been assigned to perform those duties to submit a completed CA-2 and seek guidance from their personal medical doctor. “

The union advises agents ordered to operate the Backscatter/VACIS to inform management of their health concerns and contact a union representative immediately.

Below is the entire statement sent to Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Union union members

Members - The Union has learned that there are at least 8 confirmed cases of cancer (7 Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, 1 Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma) among agents who have primarily been detailed to perform Backscatter/VACIS duties at Border Patrol Checkpoints in the El Paso Sector.  We are reviewing data that has been provided by the agency; however, we urge Border Patrol agents who have been assigned to perform those duties to submit a completed CA-2 and seek guidance from their personal medical doctor.  Once we have received, reviewed and analyzed all of the information requested, we will be in a better position to offer instruction on how to proceed further.  

 Agents should share any concerns about operating the Backscatter/VACIS with management, and if ordered to do so, inform them of the concerns involving their health and well being prior to being ordered to operate the Backscatter/VACIS.  If you are ordered to operate them, please contact a Union Representative immediately. 

Below is a photo of a VACIS device taken during a demonstration in Seattle in 2004. (Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

VACIS machine during a 2004 demonstration in Seattle

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