Depleted Uranium Coming Home To Roost - Dillon Bill In Conn Legislature
Depleted uranium is the "less rich" uranium that remains as waste in the uranium enrichment process. The metal is radioactive and stays so for billions of years. According to the Sierra Club's Nuclear Waste information, there are massive quantities that need to be either stored or re-cycled.
Could it be that the need to re-cycle the dangerous material plays a part in the U.S. military's decision to use thousands of tons of the dangerous metal in munitions and missiles, in tank armor and bunker-busting bombs?
Problems with depleted uranium were reported after the war in Bosnia, but US officials say "not to worry".
Afghanistan has been contaminated and horrifying deformities are seen in children born to people living in the war zones. Iraq is definitely the hardest hit - not one but two Gulf Wars have seen heavy reliance on the toxic ordinance.
But uranium may be coming home to roost. More and more veterans are complaining of radiation-induced symptoms. Melissa Sterry, a Gulf War veteran, describes her experience in testimony before Connecticut lawmakers:"On the outside, I look perfectly normal - on the inside, my body is destroying itself."
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Gulf War vet testifies on radiation
Gregory B. Hladky , Capitol Bureau Chief
HARTFORD - Gulf War veteran Melissa Sterry's voice shook as she told state lawmakers Thursday about the devastating illnesses she blames on her contact with depleted uranium ammunition and armor in Kuwait.
"On the outside, I look perfectly normal," said Sterry, a 42-year-old New Haven resident. "On the inside, my body is destroying itself."
Sterry told lawmakers about her chronic headaches, the pneumonia she suffers through three or four times a year, muscle spasms, chronic diarrhea, blood in her urine and stool and the three recorded heart attacks she has survived.
"Eight of us served together," she said about her buddies in the National Guard. "There are two of us left alive. ... I'd like to live to see 45 - most of my friends didn't make it to 30."
Sterry said she is now "in combat" with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over medical coverage because the government insists that its studies show depleted uranium "won't cause any long-term health risks."
Sterry was testifying in support of a bill to require that Connecticut National Guard troops now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan be properly screened and treated for depleted uranium contamination. The bill is still in committee.
She warned that the potential for exposure to depleted uranium is far higher in this war because more of it is being used in ammunition and armored vehicles and troops are being exposed for far longer periods.
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to respond to requests for comment on Sterry's claims about her medical problems.
State Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, testified that she introduced the legislation because she has heard from military people all over the United States that "the people at desk jobs in Washington, D.C., are discounting the danger" of depleted uranium contamination.
Dillon said the Army already requires that soldiers who come in contact with depleted uranium ammunition and armored vehicles be routinely screened and treated for contamination. "Unfortunately, many people throughout the country who are in the military believe that this isn't happening," Dillon said.
Last year, the New York Daily News reported that it paid for tests on nine New York National Guardsmen who had just returned from Iraq, all of whom were suffering from various illnesses. Four of the soldiers tested positive for exposure to depleted uranium.
In response to the news articles, Army officials tested 600 additional soldiers and reported that none had tested positive.
"They don't want to hear about us," insisted Sterry, predicting that the government will respond only "when enough of us die."
Depleted uranium results when enriched uranium is separated from natural uranium when fuel is made for nuclear reactors.
The United States uses depleted uranium, or "DU," to increase the effectiveness of anti-tank shells and armor-piercing ammunition and bombs. DU is also used in armor plating in tanks and other fighting vehicles. It has been in common use since the Persian Gulf War and some veterans groups blame DU for "Persian Gulf Syndrome."
"The DU we're using in Iraq is much greater than we used in Gulf War one," Dillon said. "I don't want us to repeat the mistakes we made back then."
The Department of Defense released a study last October that found that "the health risks from inhaling airborne particles of depleted uranium are very low." A five-year study by an independent research institute paid for by the DOD reported that even "in extreme cases, exposure to 'aerosolized' depleted uranium did not pose a health risk."
Dillon, however, said there are other studies that indicate DU depletes calcium, affects the kidneys and bones and can have an impact on a person's DNA.
During her testimony before the legislature's Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Sterry reminded lawmakers that the federal government for years also denied that the use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War was a serious health risk. Later studies proved it was.
Sterry said she served for six months at a supply base in Kuwait during the winter of 1991-92. Part of her job with the National Guard's Combat Equipment Company A was to clean out tanks and other armored vehicles that had been used during the war, preparing them for storage.
She said she swept out the armored vehicles, cleaning up dust, sand and debris, sometimes being ordered to help bury contaminated parts. She said that when the M-8 chemical alarms her unit used were triggered, the word would come down "to take off our chemical gear, that the M-8s were malfunctioning."
"According to the government, I was never exposed to DU because I never drove a tank," Sterry testified.
"There is this perpetual denial that is occurring."
Update February 2005: Be sure to read this article by Bob Nichols, Project Censored Award Winner.
US Military, President Out of Control -- What Does "Mildly Radioactive" Mean, Anyway?
CBC Canada - Silver Bullet: Depleted Uranium
Depleted uranium is the super weapon of the '90s; used in the Gulf War and the conflict in Kosovo. But now Canadian troops, soldiers and peacekeepers alike, may be exposed to depleted uranium with its potential danger. Now this threat wasn't one raised by a hostile enemy, but by the arms used by the United States and other NATO allies. They defeated the toughest armoured vehicles with the use of depleted uranium. It packed a knockout punch, but what soldiers often didn't know was that depleted uranium poses a threat to victor as well as vanquished.
DU Death Toll Tops 11,000
Nationwide Media Blackout Keeps U.S. Public Ignorant About This Important Story
The United States has engaged the world in Nuclear War
The Nuclear War Postcard:
"Nuclear war is not solely a mushroom cloud. In the age of nuclear and biological warfare, the United States has redefined the concept of "conventional war." The United States has engaged the world since 1991 in conventional nuclear warfare initiating the use of radioactive ammunition with a 4.5 billion year half life. The results are worse than Chernobyl."
Radioactive Wounds of War
Thursday 25 August 2005
Tests on returning troops suggest serious health consequences of depleted uranium use in Iraq.
UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq shells
RADIATION detectors in Britain recorded a fourfold increase in uranium levels in the atmosphere after the "shock and awe" bombing campaign against Iraq, according to a report.
Environmental scientists who uncovered the figures through freedom of information laws say it is evidence that depleted uranium from the shells was carried by wind currents to Britain.
New research on uranium's effect on DNA
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., April 10 (UPI) -- A Northern Arizona University biochemist and her students report that uranium can damage DNA as a heavy metal independent of its radioactive properties.
Their research has enormous implications for the study of depleted uranium as a component in military munitions.
Phys.org news agency reported on April 7 that Stearns and her students are the first researchers to discover that when cells are exposed to uranium, the uranium binds to DNA and the cells can mutate, the uranium altering the cell's DNA code. The end result can be that the affected DNA can produce a different protein or wrong amounts of protein, affecting cell growth, some of which can metastasize into cancer cells.
While scientists have long known that uranium can damage DNA as a radioactive metal, Stearns and her collaborators discovered that uranium could also damage DNA as a heavy metal, independent of its radioactive properties.
Sterns said, "Essentially, if you get a heavy metal stuck on DNA, you can get a mutation."
While scientists have discovered that other heavy metals are known to bind to DNA, Stearns and her collaborators are the first to link this trait to uranium.
The results of the team's research were published recently in Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis journals.
Study suggests cancer risk from depleted uranium
Depleted uranium, which is used in armour-piercing ammunition, causes widespread damage to DNA which could lead to lung cancer, according to a study of the metal's effects on human lung cells. The study adds to growing evidence that DU causes health problems on battlefields long after hostilities have ceased.
Cancer in Iraq vets raises possibility of toxic exposure
After serving in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago — and receiving the Bronze Star for it — the Tucson soldier was called back to active duty in Iraq. While there, he awoke one morning with a sore throat. Eighteen months later, Army Sgt. James Lauderdale was dead, of a bizarrely aggressive cancer rarely seen by the doctors who tried to treat it.
The prime suspect in all this, in the minds of many victims — and some scientists — is what's known as depleted uranium — the radioactive chemical prized by the military for its ability to penetrate armored vehicles. When munitions explode, the substance hits the air as fine dust, easily inhaled. Last month, the Iraqi environment minister blamed the tons of the chemical dropped during the war's "shock and awe" campaign for a surge of cancer cases across the country. However, the Pentagon and U.S. State Department strongly deny this ...
posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Sunday February 13 2005
updated on Sunday November 21 2010
URL of this article:
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