Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
Testing Veterans for DU
16 Sept. 2007
Table of Contents
A major problem with most DU assessment is that many effects of alpha radiation on cell structure, including DNA proteins that release biochemical signals and important cell metabolic enzymes, are ignored by nuclear physicists who use dose estimates based on uranium dust in mines, a completely inappropriate approach for a battlefield aerosol. Many medical professionals believe the protein problem is responsible for various neurodegenerative diseases evidenced by Gulf War veterans.
As Dr. Bertell writes, "Heavy metal exposure (including uranium) can cause loss of cellular immunity, autoimmune diseases, joint disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.... Decline in functional mitochondria is most damaging to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, and skeletal muscle, in that order." Loss of cellular immunity opens an organism up to viral, bacterial, and mycoplasmal invasions connected to a variety of diseases.
Equally important, scientists have found that tiny amounts of DU too small to be toxic and only mildly radioactive seem to reinforce each other in terms of causing cancers and risk to offspring. The Armed Forces Radiobiological Research Institute has even admitted that DU can cause cancer.
Humans are normally exposed to about 1.9 micrograms of uranium a day in food and water, with between one and two percent absorbed. The rest is passed in feces. Humans screen natural uranium quite effectively. But our screening system won't eliminate nano particles that are ceramic and enter through the lungs. These particles won't dissolve and won't lose their radioactivity. (Craig Etcheson, Ph.D., Center for Non-Violent Alternatives,
2) Independent environmental monitoring for Uranium contamination in
Rigorous environmental monitoring for Uranium contamination is needed in
All environmental monitoring samples and data acquired by military inspection teams operating in
A new survey of Uranium contamination in the Balkans is needed to investigate targets hit by guided bombs, cruise missiles or cluster bombs - omitted in UNEP studies of
These environmental surveys need to be correlated with suspected combat use, target locations and the weapon systems used, as requested in (1) above and identified in Table 1.
3) Independent health monitoring of troops and civilians exposed to suspected Uranium weapons
Independent and ongoing health monitoring is needed for troops and civilians (local residents, refugees and expatriates) exposed to suspected Uranium weapons in
Medical groups (local medical staff, NGO's and occupational health teams in home countries) need to be briefed on identification of potential Uranium related illnesses. The geographic location of potential exposures needs to be included where possible. Survey data should be co-ordinated by the WHO, preferably in co-operation with other independent medical research organisations. The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) has a crucial role to play in identifying sources of radiation in suspected Uranium weapons. Its terms of reference include investigation and advice on health effects of radiation, overlapping with WHO interests in international health and illnesses. It also has the most sophisticated resources to analyse suspected Uranium contamination, and potentially databases on the isotopic profiles of Uranium from different countries and manufacturing processes.
Unfortunately the IAEA's obvious links with the nuclear industry around the world are treated with suspicion by independent radiation researchers. Its impartiality needs to be assured if UN member states are to trust its findings and recommendations on the use of conventional Uranium weapons to date.
At a radioecology conference in Monaco in September 2002 physical chemist Pier Roberto Danesi, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) laboratory in Siebersdorf, Austria said "There is a consensus now that DU does not represent a health threat" (Report in Science Mag, 13/9/02 at: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/297/5588/1801).
Each country that has sent troops or civilians to suspected Uranium combat zones since 1990 needs to set up independent health monitoring programmes for personnel involved, or to review those already established. These to include assessments of uranium contamination for all personnel at risk i.e. who have been in or near hard target bombing locations and related water catchment areas. Best practice standards of epidemiological analysis are essential to avoid repeating errors in NATO data for Italian Balkans veterans.
Health monitoring programmes need to include early Uranium screening and regular follow-up health checks by employers (military, NGO's, media etc.) of all personnel returning from suspected Uranium combat zones (currently
Results of Uranium health screening and general health monitoring need to be published regularly (at least annually) for the next 5 years to enable national and international health statistics to be compared. This should include data on Special Forces personnel that would usually be classified secret. Parliaments, professional medical associations, universities and other medical or environmental research organisations, and the media need to be highly vigilant for any military, political or commercial interference with the speed and reliability of Uranium screening and health survey results. (Dai Williams, Hazards of Uranium Weapons in the Proposed War on
Something insidious happens when DU munitions are used. How to explain the exploding rates of cancer, birth defects, and radiation poisoning among Iraqis in the
Finally, through the work of internationally recognized research scientist, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, we may have an answer to these questions. The answer has to do with using an analytical methodology appropriate to low level radiation, as opposed to inappropriate methodologies used to date that show DU is harmless, and, equally important, understanding that DU has both a radiological component as well as a heavy metal component, and the two in combination are far more toxic than either is singly. (Craig Etcheson, Ph.D., Center for Non-Violent Alternatives,
But Brim and others think there will not be enough known until soldiers are tested for exposure. They compare the debate over depleted uranium to the controversy surrounding Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide used to defoliate the jungles of
Brim often comforts other mothers whose sons and daughters are suffering from unexplainable, aggressive cancers, like a
In addition to consoling other mothers, Brim has tried unsuccessfully to raise awareness of the issue either through legislation or a lawsuit.
She recently traveled to
Other veterans are seeking help from legislators in states around the country, like Melissa Sterry, 44, of
Sterry is an activist who keeps track of more than a dozen states that have introduced bills. That includes her home state, where a veterans’ health registry is being created as a database for the federal government. Among the current list of states working on individual legislation,
"Again it was heard (in committee), but it just didn’t go anywhere," Tom said. (Audrey Parente, “Update: Soldier Health Scare Back in News,”
Quietly, and under the radar for now, a movement is growing across the country that could blow up White House war planning and finish off the
Kicked off in Connecticut by a feisty Democratic state representative from New Haven named Patricia Dillon, a woman who was trained in epidemiology at Yale, the measure has copycats hard at work in some 14-20 other states. Rep. Dillon’s bill passed the state legislature in July unanimously, and goes into effect this October, about the time many Connecticut Guard troops will finally be coming home from
The military has been insisting that the 3,000 tons of DU munitions it has blown up in
Only 270 troops have been tested so far – using a far-from-state-of-the-art test. (Dave Lindorff, “DU, the Ticking Nuke in Bush’s White House War Room,” San Francisco Bay View, 25 Jan. 2006, downloaded from http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/2006/DU-Bush-War25jan06.htm, 26 Aug. 2007.)
An early small test sample of nine returned New York State National Guard soldiers, financed by the New York Daily News, found four, or nearly half the sample, to be clearly DU contaminated, with the others showing obvious symptoms – headaches, renal and neurological problems etc.
If even a much smaller proportion than 44 percent of the tens of thousands of U.S. Guard troops who get tested in
What happened prior to Gulf War I is pre-deployment health physical assessments were not given and at the completion of Gulf War I post-deployment health physical assessments were not given even though we specifically requested it. In my own case, when I can back to get released after completing special projects – I said I was exposed to these – we need to do these tests – and they refused to do them. (Dr. Doug Rokke, U.S. Army Health Physicist and Nuclear Medicine Sciences Officer in Power Hour, Beyond Treason, video, 2005.)
[A British] expert on depleted uranium (DU) has raised doubts over the tests being offered to
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the voluntary screening programme after concerns about the effects of breathing in the radioactive material, including a possible greater risk of cancer.
Malcolm Hooper, an emeritus professor of medicinal chemistry on the British Government's DU Oversight Board, said the test, which looks for high levels of uranium in veterans' urine, would not necessarily expose DU.
He told BBC Radio 4's File On 4 programme: "Uranium testing is not going to discover depleted uranium. It's not an approach that's valid scientifically."
Professor Hooper's argument focuses on the fact that uranium is soluble and easily excreted, whereas a DU explosion sends insoluble ceramic particles into the air.
"It's fine particles that get deep into the lungs and stay perhaps for ever that we're worried about," he says
He is also critical of the MoD's decision to test only volunteers rather than a group from all parts of the theatre of war. (“Troops' depleted uranium tests 'invalid,'” BBC News, 3 June 2003, downloaded from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2960030.stm, 29 Aug. 2007.)
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are some states out there passing laws to test their own National Guard troops because they say the test the government is using is not sensitive enough. (Transcript of CNN's "American Morning," 5 Feb. 2007, downloaded from http://home.earthlink.net/~nomoredu/cnntranscript.html, 12 Sept. 2007.)
DR. ASAF DURAKOVIC,
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the 1990s Dr. Asaf Durakovic studied D.U. health effects for the
DURAKOVIC: There is genetic change in chromosoma of the regions (ph) in the people who have been found positive with depleted uranium.
HUNTER: The military's overall health expert says tests on thousands of veterans from both
DR. MICHAEL KIRKPATRICK, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT HEALTH AFFAIRS: We are not seeing it in 74 individuals who are most heavily exposed, and that, I think, is really the golden standard if you take a look at people who had heavy exposure, internalization, some still having the depleted uranium in their bodies, still excreting very high levels in their urine, and their health appears at this point to be normal.
HUNTER: Some scientists and politicians claim the Army's testing is not sophisticated enough.
PAT DILLON, CONNECTICUT STATE REPRESENTATIVE: It's a heavy metal. It gets absorbed into your bones. So I don't think that the test that they're using is sensitive enough to find whether or not you've been contaminated. (Transcript of CNN's "American Morning," 5 Feb. 2007, downloaded from http://home.earthlink.net/~nomoredu/cnntranscript.html, 12 Sept. 2007.)
Kilpatrick said about 1,000 G.I.s back from the war have been tested by the Pentagon for depleted uranium and only three have come up positive - all as a result of shrapnel from DU shells.
But the test results for the
Several Army studies in recent years have concluded that the low-level radiation emitted when shells containing DU explode poses no significant dangers. But some independent scientists and a few of the Army's own reports indicate otherwise.
As a result, depleted uranium weapons have sparked increasing controversy around the world. In January 2003, the European Parliament called for a moratorium on their use after reports of an unusual number of leukemia deaths among Italian soldiers who served in Kosovo, where DU weapons were used. (Juan Gonzalez, “Poisoned? Shocking report reveals local troops
may be victims of
As part of the investigation by the Daily News, Dr. Asaf Duracovic, a nuclear medicine expert who has conducted extensive research on depleted uranium, examined the nine soldiers from the 442nd Military Police in late December and collected urine specimens from each.
Another member of his team, Prof. Axel Gerdes, a geologist at
Only about 100 laboratories worldwide have the same capability to identify and measure various uranium isotopes in minute quantities, Gerdes said.
Gerdes concluded that four of the men had depleted uranium in their bodies. Depleted uranium, which does not occur in nature, is created as a waste product of uranium enrichment when some of the highly radioactive isotopes in natural uranium, U-235 and U-234, are extracted.
Several of the men, according to Duracovic, also had minute traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, that is produced only in a nuclear reaction process.
"These men were almost certainly exposed to radioactive weapons on the battlefield," Duracovic said.
He and Gerdes plan to issue a scientific paper on their study of the soldiers at the annual meeting of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine in