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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Veterans Issues: TROOPS DESERVE BETTER STUDY OF DEPLETED URANIUM




Editorial: Troops deserve better study of depleted uranium

Wisconsin Post Crescent

You might have read---in Suday's paper, among other places---about 8 members of an Army National Guard unit who are suing the Army because they've become ill through, they contend, exposure to depleted uranium.

You probably haven't read about Army Spc. Dustin Brim, a 22-year-old from Florida who died of an array of cancers in 2004 after serving in Iraq. His mother has come to suspect depleted uranium in her son's death, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

But you probably are at least vaguely aware of Gulf War Syndrome, the name given to explain medical problems encountered by some Gulf War veterans who were generally stymied by the U.S. military in their effects to have their illnesses addressed, or, at times, even acknowledged. Depleted uranium is one of the suspected causes of Gulf War Syndrome.

The Defense Department has minimized the danger that depleted uranium poses. It says that, because of the training troops receive on how to handle it, it should be safe. But based on the illnesses some of these soldiers are developing, it's time to take a closer look at it.

Because of its density, depleted uranium is used to provide an armored coating for tanks as a stronger defense against attack. It's also used to coat shells our troops fire, making them more powerful in penetrating enemy armor.

Depleted uranium is also radioactive and leaves behind a dust that lasts a very long time.

Does breathing in that dust cause the types of illnesses being seen in these veterans? That the important question. But not enough has been done to answer it, even after the controversy over Gulf War Syndrome.

In the past 4 months, the House and Senate have passed seperate bills that call for a study on the effects of depleted uranium exposure. Those pieces of legislation are in committee to be reconciled.

The result should provide a clear mandate to provide some answers. Not nearly enough is known about the health risks truly posed by the use of depleted uranium. It's past time to find out.

The troops risking their lives in support of our nation deserve to know.

Larry Scott/VA Watchdog dot org