2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 7 Apr 2003 13:51:33 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
March 27, 2003
Contact: Eric Lutz

HR 1483

Washington, DC—Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) today introduced
legislation requiring studies on the health and environmental impact of
depleted uranium (DU) munitions, as well as cleanup and mitigation of
depleted uranium contamination at sites within the United States where
DU has been used or produced.

McDermott, a medical doctor, has been concerned about this issue since
veterans of the Gulf War started experiencing unexplained illnesses.
His concern deepened, he said, after visiting Iraq, where Iraqi
pediatricians told him that the incidence of severely deformed infants
and childhood cancers has skyrocketed.

“Depleted uranium is toxic and carcinogenic and it may well be
associated with elevated rates of birth defects in babies born to those
exposed to it,” said McDermott.  “We had troops coming home sick after
the Gulf War, and depleted uranium may be one of the factors responsible
for that.”

Because of its density, the military uses depleted uranium as a
protective shield around tanks.  It is also part of munitions like
armor-piercing bullets.  Because it tends to spontaneously ignite upon
impact, it is used to cause explosions.

But depleted uranium, a by-product of the uranium enrichment process, is
also linked to grave health concerns because of its chemical toxicity
and low-level radioactivity.  When depleted uranium explodes, soldiers
are exposed to DU in the form of alpha-emitting airborne particles that
are inhaled and shrapnel that gets embedded in the body.  They are also
exposed through unprotected contact with equipment.

About 300 metric tons of depleted uranium was used in the Iraq during
the Gulf War, and many citizens of Iraq as well as veterans of the Gulf
War have experienced terrible health problems—many say as a consequence
of depleted uranium.  Increased rates of cancers, leukemia, and birth
malformations are among the health problems that may be linked to DU.

The Pentagon has sent mixed signals about the effects of depleted
uranium, at times claiming DU is not a health hazard, and at other times
acknowledging the need for sophisticated protective gear and safety
training regarding exposure to DU.

“The need for these studies is imperative and immediate,” said
McDermott.  “We cannot knowingly put the men and women of our armed
forces in harm’s way.”

The Depleted Uranium Munitions Study Act of 2003 has several original
co-sponsors, including Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Edward Markey
(D-Mass.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio),
Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).



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