[ The small number of depleted uranium stories from a year and a half ago are back to haunt us — thanks this time to the New York Daily News’ Juan Gonzalez. Although the Pentagon downplays the effects of DU exposure, DU contamination is arguably responsible not just for skyrocketing birth defect and cancer rates among Iraqis after Gulf War I, but also serious health problems in U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq. According to the AP story (below), “Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith would not comment Monday on whether other troops have complained of similar ailments or whether the Pentagon would take precautions aimed at preventing future exposure.” One wonders whether the Pentagon attitude toward DU-related illness mirrors the attitude expressed by Bush when he recklessly taunted would-be attackers of U.S. troops with the words, “bring them on.” For more, see this recent thereitis.org story. –doclalor ]
U.S. Soldiers Contaminated With Depleted Uranium Speak Out
April 5, 2004, DemocracyNow!
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.
GIs tested for depleted uranium exposure
April 5, 2004, Associated Press
FORT DIX, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. Army is conducting medical tests on a handful of GIs who complained of illnesses after reported exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq.
Up to six soldiers from a National Guard unit based in Orangeburg, N.Y., have undergone exams at Fort Dix, and three of them remain there under observation, Fort Dix spokeswoman Carolee Nisbet said Monday.
“We are following up on this. We are on top of it. It’s not something that has fallen by the wayside,” she said.
Of nine members of the unit examined by a doctor at the request of the New York Daily News, four had “almost certainly” inhaled radioactive dust from spent U.S. artillery shells containing depleted uranium, the newspaper reported Monday.
Six of the nine contacted the newspaper after unsuccessfully appealing to the Army for testing because of unexplained illnesses, the Daily News reported.
The soldiers complained of headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, joint pain and unusually frequent urination.
The exposures apparently occurred last summer when the 442nd Military Police Co. served in Samawah, Iraq. Most members of the unit, which includes many New York police officers, firefighters and prison guards, remain in Iraq.
Military medical officials from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine conducted testing at Fort Dix, Nisbet said.
The Army would not identify the soldiers or say whether testing revealed contamination or illness.
All National Guard and Reserve soldiers mobilized through Fort Dix receive physical exams upon their return from overseas, Nisbet said. The soldiers who complained of ailments asked for and received a second round of evaluations, she said.
Depleted uranium, which is left over from the process of enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel, is an extremely dense material that the U.S. and British militaries use for tank armor and armor-piercing weapons. It is far less radioactive than natural uranium.
Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith would not comment Monday on whether other troops have complained of similar ailments or whether the Pentagon would take precautions aimed at preventing future exposure.
Thanks to Alexandra Dadlez for forwarding the AP story.