Depleted Uranium Test Positive: Soldiers Baby Born Deformed

November 12th, 2005 - by admin

New York Daily News – 2005-11-12 23:26:29

Guardsman Gerard Darren Matthew, sent home from Iraq with mysterious illnesses, holds baby daughter, Victoria, who has deformed hand. He has tested positive for uranium contamination. — New York Daily News photo.

(September 29, 2004) — In early September 2003, Army National Guard Spec. Gerard Darren Matthew was sent home from Iraq, stricken by a sudden illness.

One side of Matthew’s face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated.

The Army transferred him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for further tests, but doctors there could not explain what was wrong.

Shortly after his return, his wife, Janice, became pregnant. On June 29, she gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Claudette.

The baby was missing three fingers and most of her right hand.

Matthew and his wife believe Victoria’s shocking deformity has something to do with her father’s illness and the war — especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families.

They have seen photos of Iraqi babies born with deformities that are eerily similar.

In June, Matthew contacted the Daily News and asked us to arrange independent laboratory screening for his urine. This was after The News had reported that four of seven soldiers from another National Guard unit, the 442nd Military Police, had tested positive for depleted uranium (DU).

The independent test of Matthew’s urine found him positive for DU – low-level radioactive waste produced in nuclear plants during the enrichment of natural uranium.

Because it is twice as heavy as lead, DU has been used by the Pentagon since the Persian Gulf War in certain types of “tank-buster” shells, as well as for armor-plating in Abrams tanks. Exposure to radioactivity has been associated in some studies with birth defects in the children of exposed parents.

“My husband went to Iraq to fight for his country,” Janice Matthew said. “I feel the Army should take responsibility for what’s happened.”

The couple first learned of the baby’s missing fingers during a routine sonogram of the fetus last April at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Matthew was a truck driver in Iraq with the 719th transport unit from Harlem. His unit moved supplies from Army bases in Kuwait to the front lines and as far as Baghdad. On several occasions, he says, he carried shot-up tanks and destroyed vehicle parts on his flat-bed back to Kuwait.

After he learned of his unborn child’s deformity, Matthew immediately asked the Army to test his urine for DU. In April, he provided a 24-hour urine sample to doctors at Fort Dix, N.J., where he was waiting to be deactivated.

In May, the Army granted him a 40% disability pension for his migraine headaches and for a condition called idiopathic angioedema — unexplained chronic swelling.

But Matthew never got the results of his Army test for DU. When he called Fort Dix last week, five months after he was tested, he was told there was no record of any urine specimen from him.

Thankfully, Matthew did not rely solely on the Army bureaucracy — he went to The News.

Earlier this year, The News submitted urine samples from Guardsmen of the 442nd to former Army doctor Asaf Durakovic and Axel Gerdes, a geologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The German lab specializes in testing for minute quantities of uranium, a complicated procedure that costs up to $1,000 per test.

The lab is one of approximately 50 in the world that can detect quantities as tiny as fentograms — one part per quadrillionth.

A few months ago, The News submitted a 24-hour urine sample from Matthew to Gerdes. As a control, we also gave the lab 24-hour urine samples from two Daily News reporters.

The three specimens were marked only with the letters A, B and C, so the lab could not know which sample belonged to the soldier.

After analyzing all three, Gerdes reported that only sample A — Matthew’s urine — showed clear signs of DU. It contained a total uranium concentration that was “4 to 8 times higher” than specimens B and C, Gerdes reported.

“Those levels indicate pretty definitively that he’s been exposed to the DU,” said Leonard Dietz, a retired scientist who invented one of the instruments for measuring uranium isotopes.

According to Army guidelines, the total uranium concentration Gerdes found in Matthew is within acceptable standards for most Americans.

But Gerdes questioned the Army’s standards, noting that even minute levels of DU are cause for concern.

“While the levels of DU in Matthew’s urine are low,” Gerdes said, “the DU we see in his urine could be 1,000 times higher in concentration in the lungs.”

DU is not like natural uranium, which occurs in the environment. Natural uranium can be ingested in food and drink but gets expelled from the body within 24 hours.

DU-contaminated dust, however, is typically breathed into the lungs and can remain there for years, emitting constant low-level radiation.

“I’m upset and confused,” Matthew said. “I just want answers. Are they [the Army] going to take care of my baby?”

The letter below was written in response to Matthew’s situation. Respect to the writer for helping provide needed information for Guardsman Matthews and others who have served or are serving. It will be seen by people in the New York area who know him.

In contrast the Army limit for the same type of exposure is 4 times the Air Force limit, which just happens to be the level known to cause death.

From: C
To: GI Special
Subject: Guardsman Matthew Article

(November 09, 2005) — I am in the Air Force and my job deals with informing troops of diverse ranks how to wear nuclear/chemical/biological protective gear and part of the course that I teach does include a portion on the dangers of DU.

We inform of the use of DU in munitions, in armor for tanks, as well as ballast for airplanes. We have troops that work in explosive ordinance disposal and our cops that get instructions on how to protect themselves while working around anything that contains or has been contaminated with DU.

I just read your article on this issue of the Army Guardsman and what happened to him and his baby.

From the information presented in your article, it does seem quite convincing that his work could have significantly contributed to his resulting problems. I think the Army should pony up a little more than just 40% like they did, and as a matter of course, should cover him 100% on all future medical issues that arise.

They should do more to acknowledge the problem, at least go as far as facing his claims and working with him to determine if what he claims is true, and if they prove false, to help him find the problem.

From my limited experience in the just over a year that I have been in the United States Air Force, it has seemed to me that the US Army is somewhat harder than they need to be on their troops in some areas.

Case in point: In the Air Force, there is a certain limit that is allowed if you are anywhere near an area where a nuclear accident/spill has happened. You can only reach a certain amount of exposure before the Air Force considers you to have reached the limit for detriment your health.

In contrast the Army limit for the same type of exposure is 4 times the Air Force limit, which just happens to be the level known to cause death.

I’m not saying I have any judgments against my sister Branch, and I will be the first to state my knowledge on this subject is somewhat infant as I have only a small amount of time in Service, as stated above, but still.

I commend the News for taking the on time and expenditure of having independent tests done to assist Guardsman Matthew in his quest for answers.

Basically it seems that certain standards put in effect by the Army should be revised or at least looked at once again to determine if they are providing the best protection for their valuable troops.

Regardless of rank, or service, all giving their time and lives in the American military should always be able to be confident that those standards that are being set, will keep them as safe as possible to enable them to defend, support and serve the American people as a whole.