U.S. Soldiers Are Sick of It
Explaining How Depleted Uranium Is Killing Civilians, Soldiers, Land
By Christopher Bollyn
Depleted uranium weapons, and the untold misery they wreak on mankind, are taboo subjects in the mainstream media. This exclusive report should break the media embargo imposed on the American people.
Despite being a grossly under-reported subject in the mainstream, there is intense public interest in depleted uranium (DU) and the damage it inflicts on humankind and the environment.
While American Free Press is actively investigating DU weapons and how they contribute to Gulf War Syndrome, the corporate-controlled press ignores the illegal use of DU and its long-lasting effects on the health of veterans and the public.
In August 2004 American Free Press published a ground-breaking four-part series on DU weapons and the long-term health risks they pose to soldiers and civilians alike. Information provided to AFP by experts and scientists, some of it published for the first time in this paper, has increased public awareness of how exposure to small particles of DU can severely affect human health.
Leuren Moret, a Berkeley-based geo-scientist with expertise in atmospheric dust, corresponds with AFP on DU issues. Recently Moret provided a copy of her letters to a British radiation biologist, Dr. Chris Busby, about how nanometer size particles—less than one-tenth of a micron and smaller—of DU once inhaled or absorbed into the body, can cause long-term damage to one’s health.
Busby is one of the founders of Green Audit, a British organization that monitors companies “whose activities might threaten the environment and health of citizens.”
Moret’s writings were meant to assist Busby in a legal case being heard in the High Court in London where a former defense worker, Richard David, 49, is suing Normal Air Garrett, Ltd., an aircraft parts company now owned by Honeywell Aerospace, claiming exposure to DU on the job has made his life a “living hell.”
David worked as a component fitter on fighter planes and bombers but had to quit due to health problems. He says he developed a cough within weeks of starting work.
Today, David suffers from a variety of symptoms like those known as Gulf War Syndrome, including respiratory and kidney problems, bowel conditions and painful joints. Medical tests reveal mutations to his DNA and damage to his chromosomes, which, he says, could only have been caused by ionizing radiation. He has also been diagnosed with a terminal lung condition.
Honeywell denies DU was ever used at the plant in Yeovil, Somerset, where David worked for 10 years until 1995. David claims that DU’s existence at the plant was denied because it is an official secret.
David has asked the High Court for more time to gather evidence. The hearing is due to resume in April. “I don’t have any legal representation,” David said, “so I am representing myself. It is a real David versus Goliath case.
“I am confident I will win. I hope to set a precedent for other cases of people who have suffered from the effects of depleted uranium,” he said.
Moret’s letters on the particle effect of DU is based on research done by Marion Fulk, a nuclear physical chemist and former scientist with the Manhattan Project and the National Laboratory at Livermore, Calif. Fulk, who has developed a “particle theory” about how DU nano-particles affect human DNA, donates his time and expertise to help bring information about DU to the public.
Asked about Fulk’s particle theory, Busby said it is “quite sound.”
“DU is much more dangerous than they say,” Busby added. “I’ve always said that it contributes significantly to Gulf War Syndrome.”
When Moret’s correspondence to Dr. Busby was posted on the Internet over the New Year’s holiday under the title “How Depleted Uranium Weapons Are Killing Our Troops,” some 6,000 people read the letter in the first two days. The following Monday, a producer from BBC’s Panorama program contacted Moret to arrange an interview.
If the BBC follows up with an investigation on the health effects of DU, it may be hard for the U.S. media to maintain their cover-up. More than 500,000 “Gulf War Era” vets currently receive disability compensation, many of them for a variety of symptoms generally referred to as Gulf War Syndrome. Experts blame DU for many of these symptoms.
“The numbers are overwhelming, but the potential horrors only get worse,” Robert C. Koehler of the Chicago-based Tribune Media Services wrote in an article about DU weapons entitled “Silent Genocide.”
“DU dust does more than wreak havoc on the immune systems of those who breathe it or touch it; the substance also alters one’s genetic code,” Koehler wrote. “The Pentagon’s response to such charges is denial, denial, denial. And the American media is its moral co-conspirator.”
U.S. GOVERNMENT KNOWS
The U.S. government has known for at least 20 years that DU weapons produce clouds of poison gas on impact. These clouds of aerosolized DU are laden with billions of toxic sub-micron sized particles. A 1984 Department of Energy conference on nuclear airborne waste reported that tests of DU anti-tank missiles showed that at least 31 percent of the mass of a DU penetrator is converted to nano-particles on impact. In larger bombs the percentage of aerosolized DU increases to nearly 100 percent, Fulk told AFP.
DU is harmful in three ways, according to Fulk: “Chemical toxicity, radiological toxicity and particle toxicity.”
Particles in the nano-meter (one billionth of a meter) range are a “new breed of cat,” Moret wrote. Because the size of the nano-particles allows them to pass freely throughout the organism and into the nucleus of its cells, exposure to nano-particles causes different symptoms than exposure to larger particles of the same substance.
Internalized DU particles, Fulk said, act as “a non-specific catalyst” in both “nuclear and non-nuclear” ways. This means that the uranium particle can affect human DNA and RNA because of both its chemical and radiological properties. This is why internalized DU particles cause “many, many diseases,” Fulk said.
Asked if this is how DU causes severe birth defects, Fulk said, “Yes.”
The military is aware of DU’s harmful effects on the human genetic code. A 2001 study of DU’s effect on DNA done by Dr. Alexandra C. Miller for the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., indicates that DU’s chemical instability causes 1 million times more genetic damage than would be expected from its radiation effect alone, Moret wrote.
Dr. Miller requested that questions be sent in writing and copied to a military spokesman. She did tell AFP that it should be noted that her studies showing that DU is “neoplastically transforming and genotoxic” are based on in vitro cellular research.
Studies have shown that inhaled nano-particles are far more toxic than micro-sized particles of the same basic chemical composition. British toxicopathologist Vyvyan Howard has reported that the increased toxicity of the nano-particle is due to its size.
For example, when mice were exposed to virus-size particles of Teflon (0.13 microns) in a University of Rochester study, there were no ill effects. But when mice were exposed to nano-particles of Teflon for 15 minutes, nearly all the mice died within 4 hours.
“Exposure pathways for depleted uranium can be through the skin, by inhalation, and ingestion,” Moret wrote. “Nano-particles have high mobility and can easily enter the body. Inhalation of nano-particles of depleted uranium is the most hazardous exposure, because the particles pass through the lung-blood barrier directly into the blood.
“When inhaled through the nose, nano-particles can cross the olfactory bulb directly into the brain through the blood brain barrier, where they migrate all through the brain,” she wrote. “Many Gulf era soldiers exposed to depleted uranium have been diagnosed with brain tumors, brain damage and impaired thought processes. Uranium can interfere with the mitochondria, which provide energy for the nerve processes, and transmittal of the nerve signal across synapses in the brain.
“Damage to the mitochondria, which provide all energy to the cells and nerves, can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Hodgkin’s disease.”
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Depleted Uranium Arms Pose Risks to Troops, Residents
by Barbara Borst
Published on Sunday, June 15, 2003 by the http://www.ap.org/Associated Press
NEW YORK -- The widespread use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. and British forces in Iraq could pose serious health and environmental risks to troops and residents, nuclear and medical experts warned Saturday.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of the http://www.nuclearpolicy.org/Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which organized the gathering, said the hazards of using the radioactive material included severe consequences for kidney function and environmental pollution.
Some experts on the health risks of depleted uranium weapons called for them to be banned. Others came close to the Pentagon's assurances that so-called DU weapons do not pose an "unacceptable health risk" to U.S. troops.
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.
Most of the scientists, physicians and specialists in the field called for more study about the radioactive and chemical impacts of the material on the lungs, kidneys, lymph systems and other organs. They also demanded a full accounting of its use, not only in the recent war in Iraq but also in the 1991 Gulf War and in the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Hari Sharma, a retired chemistry professor from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, said "as long as something is radioactive, you are going to do harm to human health."
The Pentagon has said the use of depleted uranium weapons gives American forces a tremendous advantage on the battlefield. The Pentagon and many experts also contend that the material, because of its low radioactivity, poses no risk to the health of soldiers handling munitions made from it or to civilians living in areas where those shells were used.
The anti-nuclear institute, based in Washington and San Francisco, invited the Pentagon to send a speaker to the symposium but the Defense Department declined, Caldicott said.
Daniel Fahey, a former member of the Navy who has produced several reports on depleted uranium weapons, said the Pentagon exaggerates the need for them, especially in wars against armies with antiquated equipment.
He called for immediate disclosure of the amounts and locations of the weapons use in Iraq, a post-conflict assessment by the U.N. Environment Program, and cleanup of affected sites.
Experts at the Pentagon and the United Nations have estimated that 1,100-2,200 tons of depleted uranium were used by U.S.-led coalition forces during their attack on Iraq in March and April.
This contrasts with about 375 tons used in the 1991 Gulf War, 11 tons fired during the 1999 war against Serbia over Kosovo and a much smaller quantity used against rebel Serb positions in Bosnia in 1995.
Sharma studied urine specimens from soldiers of several countries that fought in the 1991 Gulf War and later studied tissues samples from people in southern Iraq. All showed evidence that depleted uranium had lodged in the human body, he said.
However, scientists will not be able to say precisely what impact depleted uranium had in the recent war until more tests are done, he said.
Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press
U.S. Soldiers Are Sick of It
Associated Press 08.12.06 | 10:20 AM
NEW YORK -- It takes at least 10 minutes and a large glass of orange juice to wash down all the pills -- morphine, methadone, a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant, a stool softener. Viagra for sexual dysfunction. Valium for his nerves.
Four hours later, Herbert Reed will swallow another 15 mg of morphine to cut the pain clenching every part of his body. He will do it twice more before the day is done.
Since he left a bombed-out train depot in Iraq, his gums bleed. There is more blood in his urine, and still more in his stool. Bright light hurts his eyes. A tumor has been removed from his thyroid. Rashes erupt everywhere, itching so badly they seem to live inside his skin. Migraines cleave his skull. His joints ache, grating like door hinges in need of oil.
There is something massively wrong with Herbert Reed, though no one is sure what it is. He believes he knows the cause, but he cannot convince anyone caring for him that the military's new favorite weapon has made him terrifyingly sick.
In the sprawling bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, he has many caretakers. An internist, a neurologist, a pain-management specialist, a psychologist, an orthopedic surgeon and a dermatologist. He cannot function without his stupefying arsenal of medications, but they exact a high price.
"I'm just a zombie walking around," he says.
Reed believes depleted uranium has contaminated him and his life. He now walks point in a vitriolic war over the Pentagon's arsenal of it -- thousands of shells and hundreds of tanks coated with the metal that is radioactive, chemically toxic, and nearly twice as dense as lead.
A shell coated with depleted uranium pierces a tank like a hot knife through butter, exploding on impact into a charring inferno. As tank armor, it repels artillery assaults. It also leaves behind a fine radioactive dust with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
Depleted uranium is the garbage left from producing enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and energy plants. It is 60 percent as radioactive as natural uranium. The United States has an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of it, sitting in hazardous waste storage sites across the country. Meaning it is plentiful and cheap as well as highly effective.
Reed says he unknowingly breathed DU dust while living with his unit in Samawah, Iraq. He was med-evaced out in July 2003, nearly unable to walk because of lightning-strike pains from herniated discs in his spine. Then began a strange series of symptoms he'd never experienced in his previously healthy life.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C, he ran into a buddy from his unit. And another, and another, and in the tedium of hospital life between doctor visits and the dispensing of meds, they began to talk.
"We all had migraines. We all felt sick," Reed says. "The doctors said, 'It's all in your head.' "
Then the medic from their unit showed up. He too, was suffering. That made eight sick soldiers from the 442nd Military Police, an Army National Guard unit made up of mostly cops and correctional officers from the New York area.
But the medic knew something the others didn't. Dutch marines had taken over the abandoned train depot dubbed Camp Smitty, which was surrounded by tank skeletons, unexploded ordnance and shell casings. They'd brought radiation-detection devices. The readings were so hot, the Dutch set up camp in the middle of the desert rather than live in the station ruins.
"We got on the Internet," Reed said, "and we started researching depleted uranium."
Then they contacted The New York Daily News, which paid for sophisticated urine tests available only overseas.
Then they hired a lawyer.
Reed, Gerard Matthew, Raymond Ramos, Hector Vega, Augustin Matos, Anthony Yonnone, Jerry Ojeda and Anthony Phillip all have depleted uranium in their urine, according to tests done in December 2003, while they bounced for months between Walter Reed and New Jersey's Fort Dix medical center, seeking relief that never came.
The analyses were done in Germany, by a Frankfurt professor who developed a depleted uranium test with Randall Parrish, a professor of isotope geology at the University of Leicester in Britain.
The veterans, using their positive results as evidence, have sued the U.S. Army, claiming officials knew the hazards of depleted uranium, but concealed the risks.
The Department of Defense says depleted uranium is powerful and safe, and not that worrisome.
Four of the highest-registering samples from Frankfurt were sent to the VA. Those results were negative, Reed said. "Their test just isn't as sophisticated," he said. "And when we first asked to be tested, they told us there wasn't one. They've lied to us all along."
The VA's testing methodology is safe and accurate, the agency says. More than 2,100 soldiers from the current war have asked to be tested; only eight had DU in their urine, the VA said.
The term depleted uranium is linguistically radioactive. Simply uttering the words can prompt a reaction akin to preaching atheism at tent revival. Heads shake, eyes roll, opinions are yelled from all sides.
"The Department of Defense takes the position that you can eat it for breakfast and it poses no threat at all," said Steve Robinson of the National Gulf War Resource Center, which helps veterans with various problems, including navigating the labyrinth of VA health care. "Then you have far-left groups that ... declare it a crime against humanity."
Several countries use it as weaponry, including Britain, which fired it during the 2003 Iraq invasion.
An estimated 286 tons of DU munitions were fired by the United States in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. An estimated 130 tons were shot toppling Saddam Hussein.
Depleted uranium can enter the human body by inhalation, the most dangerous method; by ingesting contaminated food or eating with contaminated hands; by getting dust or debris in an open wound, or by being struck by shrapnel, which often is not removed because doing so would be more dangerous than leaving it.
Inhaled, it can lodge in the lungs. As with imbedded shrapnel, this is doubly dangerous -- not only are the particles themselves physically destructive, they emit radiation.
A moderate voice on the divisive DU spectrum belongs to Dan Fahey, a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley, who has studied the issue for years and also served in the Gulf War before leaving the military as a conscientious objector.
"I've been working on this since '93 and I've just given up hope," he said. "I've spoken to successive federal committees and elected officials ... who then side with the Pentagon. Nothing changes."
At the other end are a collection of conspiracy-theorists and internet proselytizers who say using such weapons constitutes genocide. Two of the most vocal opponents recently suggested that a depleted-uranium missile, not a hijacked jetliner, struck the Pentagon in 2001.
"The bottom line is it's more hazardous than the Pentagon admits," Fahey said, "but it's not as hazardous as the hard-line activist groups say it is. And there's a real dearth of information about how DU affects humans."
There are several studies on how it affects animals, though their results are not, of course, directly applicable to humans. Military research on mice shows that depleted uranium can enter the bloodstream and come to rest in bones, the brain, kidneys and lymph nodes. Other research in rats shows that DU can result in cancerous tumors and genetic mutations, and pass from mother to unborn child, resulting in birth defects.
Iraqi doctors reported significant increases in birth defects and childhood cancers after the 1991 invasion.
Iraqi authorities "found that uranium, which affected the blood cells, had a serious impact on health: The number of cases of leukemia had increased considerably, as had the incidence of fetal deformities," the U.N. reported.
Depleted uranium can also contaminate soil and water, and coat buildings with radioactive dust, which can by carried by wind and sandstorms.
In 2005, the U.N. Environmental Program identified 311 polluted sites in Iraq. Cleaning them will take at least $40 million and several years, the agency said. Nothing can start until the fighting stops.
Fifteen years after it was first used in battle, there is only one U.S. government study monitoring veterans exposed to depleted uranium. Number of soldiers in the survey: 32. Number of soldiers in both Iraq wars: more than 900,000.
The study group's size is controversial -- far too small, say experts including Fahey -- and so are the findings of the voluntary, Baltimore-based study. It has found "no clinically significant" health effects from depleted uranium exposure in the study subjects, according to its researchers.
Critics say the VA has downplayed participants' health problems, including not reporting one soldier who developed cancer, and another who developed a bone tumor.
So for now, depleted uranium falls into the quagmire of Gulf War Syndrome, from which no treatment has emerged despite the government's spending of at least $300 million.
About 30 percent of the 700,000 men and women who served in the first Gulf War still suffer a baffling array of symptoms very similar to those reported by Reed's unit.
Depleted uranium has long been suspected as a possible contributor to Gulf War Syndrome, and in the mid-90s, veterans helped push the military into tracking soldiers exposed to it.
But for all their efforts, what they got in the end was a questionnaire dispensed to homeward-bound soldiers asking about mental health, nightmares, losing control, exposure to dangerous and radioactive chemicals.
But, the veterans persisted, how would soldiers know they'd been exposed? Radiation is invisible, tasteless, and has no smell. And what exhausted, homesick, war-addled soldier would check a box that would only send him or her to a military medical center to be poked and prodded and questioned and tested?
It will take years to determine how depleted uranium affected soldiers from this war. After Vietnam, veterans, in numbers that grew with the passage of time, complained of joint aches, night sweats, bloody feces, migraine headaches, unexplained rashes and violent behavior; some developed cancers.
It took more than 25 years for the Pentagon to acknowledge that Agent Orange -- a corrosive defoliant used to melt the jungles of Vietnam and flush out the enemy -- was linked to those sufferings.
It took 40 years for the military to compensate sick World War II vets exposed to massive blasts of radiation during tests of the atomic bomb. In 2002, Congress voted to not let that happen again.
It established the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses -- composed of scientists, physicians and veterans' advocates. It reports to the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Its mandate is to judge all research and all efforts to treat Gulf War Syndrome patients against a single standard: Have sick soldiers been made better?
The answer, according to the committee, is no.
"Regrettably, after four years of operation neither the Committee nor (the) VA can report progress toward this goal," stated its December 2005 report. "Research has not produced effective treatments for these conditions nor shown that existing treatments are significantly effective."
And so time marches on, as do soldiers going to, and returning from, the deserts of Iraq.
Herbert Reed is an imposing man, broad shouldered and tall. He strides into the VA Medical Center in the Bronx with the presence of a cop or a soldier. Since the Vietnam War, he has been both.
His hair is perfect, his shirt spotless, his jeans sharply creased. But there is something wrong, a niggling imperfection made more noticeable by a bearing so disciplined. It is a limp -- more like a hitch in his get-along. It is the only sign, albeit a tiny one, that he is extremely sick.
Even sleep offers no release. He dreams of gunfire and bombs and soldiers who scream for help. No matter how hard he tries, he never gets there in time.
At 54, he is a veteran of two wars and a 20-year veteran of the New York Police Department, where he last served as an assistant warden at the Riker's Island prison. He was in perfect health, he says, before being deployed to Iraq.
According to military guidelines, he should have heard the words depleted uranium long before he ended up at Walter Reed. He should have been trained about its dangers, and how to avoid prolonged exposure to its toxicity and radioactivity. He says he didn't get anything of the kind. Neither did other reservists and National Guard soldiers called up for the current war, according to veterans' groups.
Reed and the seven brothers from his unit hate what has happened to them, and they speak of it at public seminars and in politicians' offices. It is something no VA doctor can explain; something that leaves them feeling like so many spent shell rounds, kicked to the side of battle.
But for every outspoken soldier like them, there are silent veterans like Raphael Naboa, an Army artillery scout who served 11 months in the northern Sunni Triangle, only to come home and fall apart. Some days he feels fine. "Some days I can't get out of bed," he said from his home in Colorado.
Now 29, he's had growths removed from his brain. He has suffered a small stroke -- one morning he was shaving, having put down the razor to rinse his face. In that moment, he blacked out and pitched over. "Just as quickly as I lost consciousness, I regained it," he said. "Except I couldn't move the right side of my body." After about 15 minutes, the paralysis ebbed.
He has mentioned depleted uranium to his VA doctors, who say he suffers from a series of "non-related conditions." He knows he was exposed to DU. "A lot of guys went trophy-hunting, grabbing bayonets, helmets, stuff that was in the vehicles that were destroyed by depleted uranium. My guys were rooting around in it. I was trying to get them out of the vehicles."
No one in the military talked to him about depleted uranium, he said. His knowledge, like Reed's, is self-taught from the internet. Unlike Reed, he has not gone to war over it. He doesn't feel up to the fight. There is no known cure for what ails him, and so no possible victory in battle.
He'd really just like to feel normal again. And he knows of others who feel the same.
"I was an artillery scout, these are folks who are in pretty good shape. Your Rangers, your Special Forces guys, they're in as good as shape as a professional athlete.
"Then we come back and we're all sick."
They feel like men who once were warriors and now are old before their time, with no hope for relief from a multitude of miseries that has no name.