Puerto Rico’s Invisible Health Crisis

For over 60 years, the U.S. Navy used the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, as a bombing range and site for military-training exercises. Then the island got sick. Thousands of residents have alleged that the military’s activities caused illnesses. With a population around 9,000, Vieques is home to some of the highest sickness rates in the Caribbean. According to Cruz María Nazario, an epidemiologist at the University of Puerto Rico’s Graduate School of Public Health, people who live in Vieques are eight times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease and seven times more likely to die of diabetes than others in Puerto Rico, where the prevalence of those diseases rivals U.S. rates. Cancer rates on the island are higher than those in any other Puerto Rican municipality.

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