Depleted Uranium Tests for US Troops Returning from Iraq

September 29th, 2005 - by admin

Andrew Buncombe/ The Independent – 2005-09-29 07:45:23

Depleted Uranium Tests for US Troops Returning from Iraq
Andrew Buncombe/ The Independent

Washington (September 28, 2005) — US troops returning from Iraq are for the first time to be offered state-of-the-art radiation testing to check for contamination from depleted uranium — a controversial substance linked by some to cancer and birth defects.

Campaigners say the Pentagon refuses to take seriously the issue of poisoning from depleted uranium (DU) and offers only the most basic checks, and only when it is specifically asked for. But state legislators across the US are pushing ahead with laws that will provide their National Guard troops access to the most sophisticated tests.

Connecticut and Louisiana have already passed such legislation and another 18 are said to be considering similar steps. Connecticut’s new law – pioneered by state legislator Pat Dillon — comes into effect on Saturday.

“What this does is establish a standard,” said Mrs Dillon, a Yale-trained epidemiologist. “It means that our Guardsmen will have access to highly sensitive testing that can differentiate between background levels of radiation.” DU – a heavy metal waste-product of nuclear power plants – has been used by the US military since the 1991 Gulf War. It is used to tip tank shells and missiles because of its ability to penetrate armour. On impact DU burns at an extremely high temperature and is widely dispersed in micro particles.

The science surrounding DU remains hotly contested though the majority of studies have concluded there is no genuine risk from battlefield contamination. One 2001 study by the Royal Society, concluded: “Except in extreme circumstances any extra risks of developing fatal cancers as a result of radiation from internal exposure to DU arising from battlefield conditions are likely to be so small that they would not be detectable above the general risk of dying from cancer over a normal lifetime.”

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium
But, campaigners such as the British-based Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU), cite other studies which suggest a risk. In 2003,New Scientist reported that a study by the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, found that human bone cells could suffer genetic damage when exposed to DU, even at levels deemed to be non-toxic.

Gerard Matthew has no doubts about the effect of DU. The former member of the New York National Guard served in Iraq from April to September 2003. On his return he was not offered testing until a New York newspaper offered to arrange it for him and some friends. “[With the military] it never came up. They suppressed the whole DU thing,” he said.

Mr Matthew, who said he was found to have considerable radiation exposure, said two years on he suffers from migraines, erectile dysfunction and a swollen face — conditions that have developed since he returned from Iraq. But his conviction about the dangers of DU was fixed when his daughter, Victoria Claudette, was born with only two digits on her right hand.

Whatever debate may be going on among scientists, Mr Matthew is convinced his daughter – conceived the month after he returned from Iraq – suffered because of his own exposure to DU.

“It’s concealment,” he said. “We have 18 and 19-year-old coalition forces out there fighting and they should not be exposed to this.” Dr Doug Rokke, a health physicist who was part of a Pentagon team that studied DU in the mid 1990s, concluded that there was no way DU weapons could be used without the risk of contamination. He said the Pentagon responded to his conclusions by denouncing him.

He told the In These Timesnewspaper: “DU is a war crime. It’s that simple. Once you’ve scattered all this stuff around and then refuse to clean it up you’ve committed a war crime.”

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Broadcast Exclusive: US Soldiers Contaminated With Depleted Uranium Speak Out
Democracy Now

(April 5, 2004) — A special investigation by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News has found four of nine soldiers of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard returning from Iraq tested positive for depleted uranium contamination. They are the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.

After repeatedly being denied testing for depleted uranium from Army doctors, the soldiers contacted The News who paid to have them tested as part of their investigation.

Testing for uranium isotopes in 24 hours’ worth of urine samples can cost as much as $1,000 each.

In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, three of the contaminated soldiers speak out.

Army officials at Fort Dix and Walter Reed Army Medical Center are now rushing to test all returning members of the 442nd. More than a dozen members are back in the U.S. but the rest of the company, mostly comprised of New York City cops, firefighters and correction officers, is not due to return from Iraq until later this month.

After learning of The News’ investigation, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) blasted Pentagon officials yesterday for not properly screening soldiers returning from Iraq.

Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she will write to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding answers and soon will introduce legislation to require health screenings for all returning troops.

Depleted Uranium is considered to be the most effective anti-tank weapon ever devised. It is made from nuclear waste left over from the making nuclear weapons and fuel. The public first became aware the US military was using DU weapons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. But it had been used as far back as the 1973 Yom Kippur war in Israel.

Amid growing controversy in Europe and Japan, the European Parliament called last year for a moratorium on its use.

* Sgt. Herbert Reed, assistant deputy warden at Rikers Island with 442nd military police company of New York Army National Guard. He did not test positive for depleted uranium, but has uranium 236, a uranium isotope not found in nature.
* Sgt. Agustin Matos, was deployed in Iraq with the 442nd Military Police. He is among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
* Sgt. Hector Vega, among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
* Dr. Asaf Durakovic, colonel in army reserves who served in first Gulf War. He is one of the first doctors to discover unusual radiation levels in Gulf War veterans. He has since become a leading critic of the use of depleted uranium in warfare. He tested the nine men at the request of the Daily News.
* Leonard Dietz, retired physicist from Knolls Atomic Laboratory in upstate New York. Pioneered the technology to isolate uranium isotopes.

Read Juan Gonzalez’ Exclusive Reports in the New York Daily News:

* Poisoned? Shocking report on troops
* Inside filthy camp where trouble began
* Soldiers demand to know health risks
* Army to test N.Y. Guard unit

Related Democracy Now! Coverage:

* Is Depleted Uranium Creating a New Nuclear Danger in Iraq?
* Radiation is 1,000 Times the Normal Levels Where US Troops Used Depleted Uranium Shells in Baghdad
* U.S. Reportedly Fires DU Shells in Basra: Despite Evidence of Health and Environmental Effects, Pentagon Denies DU Is Dangerous
* Part 2 of Our Discussion On Depleted Uranium, with the Scientific Secretary with the European Committee On Radiation Risk, and a U.N. Human Rights Lawyer
* Dr. Asaf Durakovic Gives a Rare Interview About Depleted Uranium in Iraq: He Was the First Military Doctor to Test Gulf War Veterans for Radiation Exposure and Was Terminated for His Work

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

Depleted Uranium Situation Requires Action
by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair

Dr. Doug Rokke, Ph.D

(April 19, 2005) — While US and British military personnel continue using uranium munitions – America’s and England’s own “dirty bombs” US Army, US Department of Energy, and US Department of Defense officials continue to deny that there are any adverse health and environmental effects as a consequence of the manufacture, testing, and/or use of uranium munitions to avoid liability for the willful and illegal dispersal of a radioactive toxic material — depleted uranium.

They arrogantly refuse to comply with their own regulations, orders, and directives that require United States Department of Defense officials to provide prompt and effective medical care “all” exposed individuals [Medical Management of Unusual Depleted Uranium Casualties, DOD, Pentagon, 10/14/93, Medical Management of Army personnel Exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Command 29 April 2004), and section 2-5 of AR 70-48].

They also refuse to clean up dispersed radioactive Contamination as required by Army Regulation- AR 700-48: “Management of Equipment Contaminated With Depleted Uranium or Radioactive Commodities” (Headquarters, Department Of The Army, Washington, D.C., September 2002) and U.S. Army Technical Bulletin- TB 9-1300-278: “Guidelines For Safe Response To Handling, Storage, And Transportation Accidents Involving Army Tank Munitions Or Armor Which Contain Depleted Uranium” (Headquarters, Department Of The Army, Washington, D.C., JULY 1996).

Specifically section 2-4 of United States Army Regulation-AR 700-48 dated September 16, 2002 requires that:

(1) “Military personnel “identify, segregate, isolate, secure, and label all RCE” (radiologically contaminated equipment).
(2) “Procedures to minimize the spread of radioactivity will be implemented as soon as possible.”
(3) “Radioactive material and waste will not be locally disposed of through burial, submersion, incineration, destruction in place, or abandonment” and
(4) “All equipment, to include captured or combat RCE, will be surveyed, packaged, retrograded, decontaminated and released IAW Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278, DA PAM 700-48” (Note: Maximum exposure limits are specified in Appendix F).

The past and current use of uranium weapons, the release of radioactive components in destroyed U.S. and foreign military equipment, and releases of industrial, medical, research facility radioactive materials have resulted in unacceptable exposures. Therefore, decontamination must be completed as required by US Army Regulation 700-48 and should include releases of all radioactive materials resulting from military operations.

The extent of adverse health and environmental effects of uranium weapons contamination is not limited to combat zones but includes facilities and sites where uranium weapons were manufactured or tested including Vieques, Puerto Rico, Colonie, New York, and Jefferson Proving Grounds, Indiana.

Therefore medical care must be provided by the United States Department of Defense officials to all individuals affected by the manufacturing, testing, and/or use of uranium munitions. Thorough environmental remediation also must be completed without further delay.

I am amazed that 14 years after was asked to clean up the initial DU mess from Gulf War 1 and almost ten years since I finished the depleted uranium project, that United States Department of Defense officials and mauy others still attempt to justify uranium munitions use while ignoring mandatory requirements.

But beyond the ignored mandatory actions that the willful dispersal of tons of solid radioactive and chemically toxic waste in the form of uranium munitions just does not even pass the common sense test.

Finally, continued compliance with the infamous March 1991 Los Alamos Memorandum that was issued to ensure continued use of uranium munitions can not be justified.

In conclusion: the President of the United States George W. Bush and
The Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair must acknowledge and accept responsibility for willful use of illegal uranium munitions — their own “dirty bombs” — resulting in adverse health and environmental effects.

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair also should order:

• 1. medical care for all casualties,
• 2. thorough environmental remediation,
• 3. immediate cessation of retaliation against all of us who demand compliance with medical care and environmental remediation requirements,
• 4. and ban the future use of depleted uranium munitions.

References: These references are copies. The actual regulations and orders and other pertinent official documents: