Risky Business: DU in Hawai’i

July 14th, 2007 - by admin

Kristine Kubat / Big Island Weekly – 2007-07-14 09:57:34


HAWAI’I (June 27, 2007) — There’s the official Department of Defense position that depleted uranium is safe because there is no conclusive evidence that it is harmful. Then there’s a growing body of citizens lacking any chain of command and utterly suspicious of everything the military does positing a wide range of concerns about the use of this radioactive heavy metal. On both sides of the debate, leaps of faith are being made.

With the recent discovery that DU has been used by the military in Hawai`i, those responsible for ensuring public health and safety here are suddenly forced to arbitrate the dispute and make hard choices about who and what to believe.

All in all, it’s a pretty risky business.

There’s Dr. Lorrin Pang — who speaks on the issue of DU only as a private citizen. He has been told by superiors at the Department of Health not to speak in his role as DoH’s Maui district health officer. Pang, who served 20 years as a preventitive medicine officer for the Army Medical Corps, believes first and foremost in the precautionary principal.According to him, if we are going to make assumptions when it comes to DU, there’s enough evidence to warrant caution. “We should assume it is harmful then try to prove it is safe, not the other way around, ” he says.

Pang holds a hard line. He’s not against war; he’s not an activist. His training as a physcian and now a public health official compel him to ask tough questions.

Compare his approach with that of Leuren Moret, a self-styled expert on the subject of depleted uranium prone to making leaps. Moret is not only distrustful of the government, she claims “they kidnapped my daughter” for some length of time and have tried to kill her (Leuren) “because I blew the whistle on them at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.” Moret takes credit for “discovering the link between exposure to uranium and diabetes.” She also uses maps of cancer rates in Hawai`i, which show Kona with the highest per capita incidence of the disease, to conclude that the military must be using DU at Pohakuloa.

While Moret’s conjecture has raised concern among many dealing with the controversy, no one is willing to go on the record criticizing her. Activists admire her gumption and gain a lot from her globetrotting on behalf of the cause, public officials seem afraid of angering the activists. Pang will only say that he disagrees with her on some issues.

General Robert Lee, who serves as Hawai`i’s adjutant general and is the highest ranking Homeland Security officer in the state, recently made this statement regarding DU and National Guard troops in Iraq: “People don’t know the whole story. It’s only used to blow up enemy tanks and armor. Once that is done, DU munitions are not used. None of my troops that were called up even handled DU.”

Compare Lee’s statement with denials made by the military during the first Gulf War. It was not until March 7, 1991, over a week after the cease fire ending Desert Storm, that the U.S. Army Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command issued a message to deployed units warning that “any system struck by a DU penetrator can be assumed to be contaminated with DU.” The same message also warned that “personnel should avoid entering contaminated systems,” and that “personnel exposed to DU contamination should wash exposed areas and discard clothing.” Though this warning should have been issued months before that war began, and widely circulated through the chain of command, government reports and interviews with numerous Gulf War veterans indicate that even after the message was sent, U.S. troops were never informed about the use of DU penetrators or the presence of depleted uranium contamination on the battlefield.

In 2006, Capt. William Roberts, a media spokesman for the multinational forces in Iraq, stated that “depleted uranium arms are not utilized by units currently deployed here in Iraq. We don’t have that type of combat operation during this time.” Seven months later, the U.S. stockpile at Camp Falcon caught fire. A film about Fallujah, Caught in the Crossfire, shows a wide array of DU munitions being used in buildings, not tanks. A DVD about the C-130 Spectre Gunship DU attack on a village in Afghanistan shows buildings and people in the open being attacked, not tanks. The use of DU is ongoing and broadly spread throughout the U.S. arsenal, with Stryker vehicles designed to fire it from a mobile gun system.

General Lee could not be reached for comment; instead BIW was directed to Major Charles Anthony, a public affairs officer for the National Guard. Anthony stood by Lee’s statement and said he has never seen the films mentioned above. He believes that DU is not used that way because “that’s not what these weapons are intended for.”

Anthony comes by the information he shares with the public from internal briefings and outside sources, such as the Internet. He is aware that conflicting evidence is out there. As for how he chooses what to present as fact to the public: “You make your policy and pronouncements on the best evidence that you have,” he says.

The Department of Defense pins its case on a narrow range of science and limits its exposure primarily by controlling the message on DU. From Wikipedia to CNN to local coverage of the issue, you find the same, consistent wordage offered on behalf of the military: There is no conclusive evidence that DU is harmful. It’s a claim reminiscent of that made by tobacco company officials until Jeffrey Wigand blew the whistle on them.

The DoD position is backed by a RAND scientific literature review that found no evidence of harmful health effects directly linked to depleted uranium exposures at levels experienced by Gulf War veterans. It also relies heavily on the World Health Organization’s assessment that because depleted uranium emits only 60 percent of the radiation emitted by natural uranium, it is weakly radioactive and not especially dangerous in its natural state.

The DoD ignores the Human Health Fact Sheet of the Argonne National Lab, which says DU is as hazardous as enriched uranium.

They also choose to ignore a study by three leading radiation scientists which cautioned that children and adults could contract cancer after breathing in dust containing DU. (Such dust is common where the munitions explode and radioactive particles become airborne.)

Dr Keith Baverstock, who was the WHO’s top expert on radiation and health for 11 years until he retired in May of 2003, alleges that his report was deliberately suppressed — a claim WHO strongly denies.

“There is increasing scientific evidence the radioactivity and the chemical toxicity of DU could cause more damage to human cells than is assumed,” says Baverstock. “I believe our study was censored and suppressed by the WHO because they didn’t like its conclusions.”

As for the claim that no links between exposure to DU and illness have been found, it’s important to note that experts from the United Nations Environment Programme have so far not been allowed into Iraq to assess its effect..

When asked how the precautionary principal applies to making public pronouncements that DU is safe in the face of such evidence that it may not be, direct links notwithstanding, Lt. Charles Anthony hesitates: “That’s why [the Army] is doing multiple tests, why they are not stopping with one.”

Dr. Josh Green who represents Kona’s 6th District at the state legislature, is a physician who takes concerns about DU seriously. “There is absolutely no debate about whether depleted uranium poses a health risk. It is a classic heavy metal and my concern is about it seeping into the water system,” says Green. “There are a lot of unresolved questions about the various war syndromes but that’s not the issue here . . . let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As a physician, I know heavy metals pose a health risk and we need to determine if [DU] is here in Hawai`i.”

This past legislative session he pushed hard to get the health department involved by introducing and then shepherding a bill that required testing for the substance outside live-fire ranges in the state.

Legislators overwhelmingly supported Green’s bill — H.B. 1452 — in public forums, but the measure failed to pass when funding for it never materialized. According to Green there is nothing unusual about bills receiving widespread support, then stalling in the Finance Committee due to lack of funding.

Those who sought passage of the bill are disappointed but not deterred. Technically, the legislation is still alive and Green has vowed to work even harder the next session to get it funded. Expect the issue to come front and center in 2008.

In the meantime, citizens are arming themselves with Geiger counters and the Army will begin the testing Anthony refers to in the fall.

Recently Green sent an open letter to Governor Linda Lingle asking her to support H.B. 1452; he also made a request that Dr. Pang be granted access to the Army’s testing process and all its findings. “The activist community has put its faith in Dr. Pang,” he explains. “It’s important that someone with credibility be involved in the testing.”

And if Pang is satisfied with the results?

“That will be enough for me,” says Green. “I mean, what more could we ask for at that point?”

Pang is willing to participate in the Army testing but he’s got some ground rules: “Number one, I can call my advisors at any time to help analyze results and procedures. Number two, if I disagree with them I get to say so. Number three, the process is absolutely transparent. Number four, if I say the results mean ‘white’ and they say the results mean ‘black’ then both ‘white’ and ‘black’ get reported. Number five, they have to be willing to undergo questioning, not get insulted and walk out. The Army moans that they don’t have any credibility. Well, let them earn it.”

There are 14 comment(s) comments on this story.
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kahiko wrote on Jul 11, 2007 7:28 AM:
” It doesn’t matter what credentials a person waves like “retired health physicist”, the problem in credibility is when the emperor wears no clothes. For example, viewing the KITV clip of Leuren MOret, anyone can notice the device is not a Gammascout at all! It’s a Digilert! For folks who can stomach more disillusionment about Helbig check out http://www.theecologist.org/archive_detail.asp?content_id=748 ”

Dragonslayer wrote on Jul 9, 2007 5:31 PM:
” Exactly, DU is cheaper and more plentiful than lead and needs to be disposed of on the countries of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Afganistan, blah blah blah. I would like to address Helabig’s leprous attachment to his qualified Health Physicist. “it takes 7000 grams next to the gamma scout to get a reading of 80 millirems or so.” Have you lost your mind? Don’t listen to such foolishness everyone. This is the most rediculous claim I have ever heard. Elevated background radiation can happen just through atmospheric circulation of radioactive dust or even flying in an airplaine.
Your attempts to try to attack the gamma scout is desparate. The gamma scout uses the same inert/vacuum tube technology that has been used in geiger counters for over 50 years. You obviously know very little Helabig about radiation detection. Need your expert to tell us the truth about the gamma scout, huh? Well at least you are attacking technology now and not people. This does show a little evolution in your self-actualization. Once again drop the biographical writing, its not interesting and your pentagoon paycheck is wasting taxpayer money. ”

Elaine Hunter, D.Sc. wrote on Jul 9, 2007 5:38 AM:
” A short blog entry, quite unscientific. “Why would they use DU” question by Helbig–because they have whopping lot of it and need to get rid of it. And because HEI’s [high explosive incendiaries] were in short supply. ”

Elaine Hunter, D.Sc. wrote on Jul 9, 2007 5:33 AM:
” Stalking the Wild Radioactivity in Hawaii. While I have no doubt there is excess radioactivity detectable in Hawaii, I do have some serious questions about the source. In one video I watched there is a military helicopter stirring a great deal of dust some of which would logically be deposited downwind . If that dust contained radioisotopes, some of them would get redistributed—downwind. However that does not mean it is necessarily from the use of concentrated “depleted” uranium [DU] ammunition. I’m not at all convinced that a “Gamma Scout” could pinpoint that a source of excess radioactivity is precisely DU; it’s not that sophisticated. I’m going to go way out on a scientific limb and say it is my belief that the source of excess radioactivity in Hawaii is the residual fallout from the testing of nuclear bombs, especially in the Pacific Islands and in China.
And that fallout would have included DU, contrary to the opinion I read recently that not much DU was included in nuclear bombs. There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. It was used as a neutron in most thermonuclear [hydrogen] bombs. Tons of of it. The fallout had to include DU plus a plethora of nasty artificial radioisotopes fission products. The fetal and birth defects death records for Hawaii from 1940-1986 bear mute testimony to my theory. I’m seeking away to give a voice.
Yes, I extracted these data from the US Vital Statistics for Mortality and Morbidity, along with the same data for all US states and territories. It took months. Then I correlated these data with nuclear testing records. It took months. Hawaii and Colorado yielded the most stunning data once just numbers were graphed. These graphs have not been published. They are too big to put on the internet and I have no support to do it if it were possible. It’s all still in pencil. Here I will cite one disturbing example: the US bombed Enewetok, Marshall Islands, 4 times in April and May of 1951. We don’t have government records for the Marshall Islands. We do for Hawaii. Hawaii entries for deaths due to birth defects from 1951 through 1958 were not recorded in the US data, even though they were present for the years 1940-1950.
The US tested in the Pacific Islands through 1958. The test ban treaty ended testing temporarily in 1959. Back to the Hawaii data: the fetal death entries WERE present for 1951-1958. The fetal death rates for Hawaii soared from 14.0 to 25.3 [per 1,000 live births] in 1968, the year following what was possibly the “dirtiest” ever nuclear test, China’s 3-stage fission-fusion-fission test [plus 3 other tests in China] in 1967 Fetal deaths? Death of a fetus at 20 or more weeks. Also frequently lethal birth defects. Data is too much to go further here.
What’s written above gives a great deal to digest. Many of the radioisotopes from fallout have long half lives—they are still there to be measured. There’s a huge difference between doing science and doing journalism. I don’t have the media savvy of Moret or Nichols, however I do have more biology and physics savvy than they or Helbig do. I’ve done much other rsearch that he chooses to ignore. [note this is also a blog response to 2 recent articles in Big Island Weekly]. DU and other radioisotopes/heavy metals are bad news to living beings what ever their source. “I’m quaking in my genes knowing the mayhem men manufacture” Elaine Hunter, D.Sc. ”

miki wrote on Jul 8, 2007 11:10 PM:
” I saw the Spectre Gunship video and the DU is brightly lit up as it hits all over the ground and buildings, and the Fallujah DU looks like from rayguns hitting the building and spalting out uranium sparks. Air support from A10 Warthogs is 30 mm DU and many DU bombs have been dropped on residential areas, including cluster bombs. Roger is obviously in denial of the facts. ”

kahiko wrote on Jul 8, 2007 10:44 PM:
” The Camp Falcon debacle is well covered besides Bob Nichols. Check out Alan Roland and then google up some of the footage and the destruction reports. Who can believe that there were no casualties and the base was back to normal the next day as the military claimed? Check out the whitehot fireballs on the many videos of Camp Falcon DU cooking off, check out the black soot all over. As for the Gammascout,read Hadley Catalano’s sidebar for accuracy about what the Gammascout can detect, and that includes alpha. DU is mostly alpha radiation. ”

whalesong wrote on Jul 8, 2007 10:04 PM:
” Roger’s opala is just like DU, you can never turn the pilikia off. The truth is plain for people to see. Hey Roger check out “Blowing in the Wind”. It will explain it all for you and what you should be looking for. By your comments you have obviously not seen the films in question. That would seem like a good starting point before running your mouth off. For those who have actually seen the films mentioned, which is numerous people on Hawaii Island who have viewed these films, it is as Kristine said. Too bad if you are in denial of what is obvious to everyone. ”

Roger Helbig wrote on Jul 5, 2007 5:52 PM:
” Why would DU be used against buildings? You have not answered that question yet assert it as being true. In 2006, Capt. William Roberts, a media spokesman for the multinational forces in Iraq, stated that “depleted uranium arms are not utilized by units currently deployed here in Iraq. We don’t have that type of combat operation during this time.” Seven months later, the U.S. stockpile at Camp Falcon caught fire. A film about Fallujah, Caught in the Crossfire, shows a wide array of DU munitions being used in buildings, not tanks. A DVD about the C-130 Spectre Gunship DU attack on a village in Afghanistan shows buildings and people in the open being attacked, not tanks.
The use of DU is ongoing and broadly spread throughout the U.S. arsenal, with Stryker vehicles designed to fire it from a mobile gun system. The film about Fallujah Caught in the Crossfire does not show DU being used. It may claim so, but what is their proof. The first thing is that DU does not make sense. It kills tanks and the insurgents and Al Qaeda have no tanks or armored vehicles of any kind. The articles about Camp Falcon are by Bob Nichols who is Leuren Moret’s mouthpiece.
If Moret is prone to jumping to conclusions, Nichols is even more so. He is a pretend journalist who writes about only one subject DU and only from the point of view of Moret or Rokke who dictate his articles to him. There is zero evidence that the explosions at Camp Falcon were of DU munitions. There is no reason to believe that DU munitions were stockpiled there in the first place. There was no expectation of ever encountering an enemy armored force after the run on Baghdad in 2003; why bring DU munitions to Baghdad to battle imaginary foes. The C-130 gunship fires a gatling gun; how does that enable the leap to that gun firing DU? Do you know the airman who loaded the plane? The C-130 gunship does not normally employ DU and again, there are no enemy armored formations in Afghanistan so why the leap to the C-130 must be firing DU when it wasn’t. Kristine, your article is not consistent. You also need to do a better job of fact checking. I gather you actually attended one of Moret’s lectures and that is the way you learned of her far out claims about her daughter and being a whistleblower.
I am quite sure that Moret never blew the whistle at Livermore. She worked there less than a year as a glorified lab assistant .. a Senior Scientific Technologist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing. She is also no shrinking violet and certainly would not have failed to pursue her whistleblowing case to the ultimate appeal and there is absolutely no record of Moret’s having ever filed an appeal with the US Department of Labor which would have heard such an appeal. I also had close contact with Bay Area whistleblowers since I was one myself and none of those I knew at Livermore ever heard of Moret. Want to learn about me .. Google Coopers and Lybrand, Navy and TQM, Fraud or Mistake and go to DUStory http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/DUStory/files Roger rwhelbig at gee mail dot com ”

Roger Helbig wrote on Jul 5, 2007 5:31 PM:
” This at least does a fairly good job of exposing Moret as a con artist – Blaine Howard, retired formerly Certified, Health Physicist, has made a very clear case that the Gamma Scout meter used by Moret is incapable of detecting DU in air. One of his calculations shows that it would take 7000 grams of DU inches away from the meter in order to get the reading that Moret claimed. I would really like for the writer to contact me. He has some interesting side stories about Moret that I was not aware of and I have been intensely researching her, Douglas Lind Rokke, Bob Nichols and others in the anti-DU crusade because Rokke and Nichols decided to slander me all over the world.

I also have the strongest belief that through allies of theirs like Mohammed Daud Miraki of Chicago, who had his non-profit fund shut down by the State of Illinois, that Moret and Rokke, etc. will result in recruiting a terrorist some day who will want to pay the US back for poisoning his country forever when the truth is that it never happened. None of the anti-DU crusaders examines the basic science or reads any of the many test reports; they only read what some anti-DU cruader has parroted from another anti-DU crusader. They are the ones on the witch hunt. Go to DUStory http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/DUStory/files/ join and go to the files section – you will learn about Rokke, Moret and see why the Gamma Scout used by Moret in Hawaii does not have the ability to detect DU in air. Thanks. Roger Helbig ”

Linda Kroll RN BSN wrote on Jul 3, 2007 7:20 AM:
” General Lee is quoted in this article, “none of my troops that were called up even handle DU.” This statement really bothers me because once a DU munition is vaporized “handling” it is a mute point. Our troops are in grave danger going into areas where this weapon has been used. It gets scattered everywhere in the environment. Every helecopter landing or big truck driving by can kick up the microscopic radioactive particles and reintroduce them to the air our vets over there are breathing. For more info see www.protecthawaii.ws ”

TEST ALL HAWAII FOR DU wrote on Jun 30, 2007 8:49 AM:
Reported in “The Enemy Within” (1996) by Jay > Gould, page 194: > > “The Nevada downwinders’ suits were > unsuccessful. Despite winning > their case in the lower courts, the Appellate Court > ruled in favor of the AEC on > the grounds that the US government could not be > held responsible. At one > point, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs sent a > series of interrogatories > to the AEC defense counsel with the following > simple question: Who has the > responsibility for the safety and welfare of persons > and their property near > areas of possible fallout? > “The AEC answered as follows: > ” ‘It is the responsiblity of the heads of > families and owners of > property to protect their families and their > property from possible radioactive > fallout.'” ”

Linda Kroll RN BSN wrote on Jun 29, 2007 9:19 AM:
” Great article! The activists I know involved with the issue of DU contamination in Hawaii mainly want two things. One: For the public at large to educate themselves on this issue. Two: Testing, a comprehensive, reliable, ongoing monitoring of radiation around all active live-fire ranges in Hawaii. We want test procedures and results to be verified by independent expert consultants and results made available to the public. On July 27 at the Outdoor Circle in Kona at 7pm, the public will have an opportunity to educate themselves on the DU issue by attending the free performance of Ten Finger 10 Toes, a play dealing with the issue of depleted uranium. For more information contact me at tenfingers10toes@protecthawaii.ws ”

Leuren Moret wrote on Jun 28, 2007 7:06 PM:
” In December 2006, I sent material on depleted uranium to the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir, who organized a War Crimes Conference in Kuala Lumpur in February 2007. An MD, he was so stunned by the information from the European Parliament ECRR report on low level radiation, that he asked me to invite 5 more speakers on radation and DU issues. He said “I believe it is the most important issue in the world today.” Tun Dr. Mahathir is the first world leader to take this courageous stand. We must thank him and recognize that this issue is extremely important because it is global nuclear pollution affecting all living things. It will have an unknown outcome… and it cannot be good. Radiation damage to the DNA is passed on to the next 40,000 generations, reported before 1920 by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Muller. “