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Depleted Uranium Blamed for Cancer Clusters Among Iraq War Vets

by Christopher Bollyn August 15, 2004

A discovery by American Free Press that nearly half of the recently returned soldiers in one unit from Iraq have “malignant growths” is “critical evidence,” according to experts, that depleted uranium weapons are responsible for the huge number of disabled Gulf War vets – and damage to their DNA.

A growing number of U.S. military personnel who are serving, or have served, in the Persian Gulf, Iraq , and Afghanistan have become sick and disabled from a variety of symptoms commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome. Depleted uranium (DU) weapons have been blamed for causing many of the symptoms.

“Gulf War vets are coming down with these symptoms at twice the rate of vets from previous conflicts,” said Barbara A. Goodno from the Dept. of Defense’s Deployment Health Support Directorate.

A recent discovery by American Free Press that nearly half the soldiers in one returned unit have malignant growths has provided the scientific community with “critical evidence,” experts say, to help understand exactly how depleted uranium affects humans – and their DNA.

One of the first published researchers of Gulf War Syndrome, Dr. András Korényi-Both told AFP that 27-28 percent of Gulf War veterans have suffered chronic health problems, more than 5 times the rate of Viet Nam vets, and 4 times the rate of Korean War vets.

Korényi-Both said his son had recently returned from Iraq , where he had been part of the initial assault from Kuwait to Baghdad . From his unit of 20 men, 8 now have “malignant growths,” Korényi-Both said.

Dr. Korényi-Both is not an expert on DU, but has written extensively about how the fine desert sand blowing around Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula provides a ideal vehicle for toxins, increasing the range and effect of biological and chemical agents, such as DU, that attach themselves to the particles of sand.

Korényi-Both described how, during the 1991 Gulf War, he and others had inhaled large quantities of sand dust that could have been laden with chemical or biological agents. The sand “destroyed our immune systems,” he said.

FULK’S THEORY

Marion Fulk, a former nuclear chemical physicist at Lawrence Livermore lab, is investigating how DU affects the human body. Fulk said that 8 malignancies out of 20, in 16 months, “is spectacular – and of serious concern.”

The high rate of malignancies found in this unit appears to have been caused by exposure to DU weapons on the battlefield. If DU were found to be the cause, this case would be “critical evidence” of Fulk’s theory on how the DU particulate affects DNA.

Such quick malignancies are caused by the particulate effect of DU, according to Fulk:

When DU (Uranium 238) decays, it transforms into two short-lived and “very hot” isotopes – Thorium 234 and Protactinium 234. As it transforms in the body, the DU particle is firing off faster and faster “bullets” into the DNA, Fulk said, or wherever it is lodged. Because uranium has a natural attraction to phosphorus, however, it is drawn to the phosphate in the DNA.

As the Uranium 238 decays, it releases alpha and beta particles with millions of electron volts. When a DU particle makes this transformation in the human body it releases “huge amounts of energy in the same location doing lots of damage very quickly,” Fulk said.

Thorium 234 has a half-life of 24 days and emits a beta particle of .270 million electron volts as it transforms into Protactinium 234, which has a half-life of less than 7 hours. Protactinium then emits a beta particle of 2.19 million electron volts as it transforms into the more stable Uranium 234.

The chemical binding energy in the molecules of the human cell is less than 10 electron volts. One alpha particle from U-238 is over 4 million electron volts, which is like “nuking a cell.”

Leuren Moret, a scientist who is opposed to the use of DU, compared it to sitting in front of a fire and putting a red-hot coal in your mouth. “The nuclear establishment wants us to believe that it is like sitting in front of the fire and warming the whole body evenly – and that no harm is done, but that is not the reality,” she said.

“We can expect to see multiple cancers in one person,” Moret said. “These multiple unrelated cancers in the same individual have been reported in Yugoslavia and Iraq in families that had no history of any cancer. This is unknown in the previous studies of cancer,” she said. “A new phenomenon.”

The Pentagon’s Goodno questioned Dr. Korényi-Both’s report that 8 of 20 recently returned soldiers from one unit had experienced malignant growths. Goodno and Korényi-Both did agree, however, that Iraqi chemical and biological agents had not played a role in the 2003 invasion.

This is significant because three factors have generally been blamed for causing Gulf War Syndrome: Iraqi chemical and biological weapons, the cocktail of vaccinations given to coalition soldiers, and depleted uranium. The absence of any detectable chemical or biological agents during the 2003 invasion of Iraq reduces the number of potential factors for the malignancies in the veterans to pre-war vaccinations and DU.

Statistics published in Encyclopedia Britannica’s 2003 Almanac indicate that 325,000 Gulf War vets were receiving compensation for service-related disabilities in 2000. The almanac lists 580,400 combatants in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, yet only 467 U.S. personnel were actually wounded during the conflict. The 325,000 disabled Gulf War vets are equivalent to 56 percent of the number of military personnel “serving in the theater of operation.”

Furthermore, in 2000, nine years after the three-week war in Iraq had ended, the number of disabled vets from the Gulf War was increasing yearly by more than 43,000. While the number of disabled vets from previous wars is decreasing by about 35,000 per year, since the “War on Terror” began in 2001, the total number of disabled vets has grown to some 2.5 million.

MORE DISABLED VETS

“More than ever before,” Brad Flohr of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs said about the total number of disabled vets. Asked if there are more disabled vets now than even after World War II, Flohr said he believed so.

Terry Jemison of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs told AFP that current statistics indicate that more than half a million veterans of the 14-year-old “Gulf War era” are now receiving disability compensation. During this period, some 7,035 soldiers are reported having been wounded in Iraq .

With 518,739 disabled “Gulf-era veterans” currently receiving disability compensation, according to Jemison, the number of veterans disabled after the war is more than 73 times the total number of wounded, in and out of combat, from the entire 14-year conflict with Iraq.

DEPLETED URANIUM WEAPONS

Last December, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a nuclear medicine expert who has conducted extensive research on depleted uranium, examined nine soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company of New York and found that four of the men had absorbed or inhaled depleted uranium (U-238).

Several of the men had traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, which is only produced in a nuclear reaction process. U-236 is a man-made isotope of uranium.

“These men were almost certainly exposed to radioactive weapons on the battlefield,” Durakovic said.

“Due to the current proliferation of DU weaponry, the battlefields of the future will be unlike any battlefields in history,” Durakovic, then Chief of Nuclear Medicine for the Veterans Administration said after the first Gulf War, in which he served.

Since 1991, the U.S. military has used DU in munitions as penetrating rods, which destroy enemy tanks and their occupants, and as armor on U.S. tanks. When DU penetrating rods strike a hard target some of the radioactive and chemically toxic DU is vaporized into ultra-fine particles that are easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

According to a survey of 10,051 Gulf War veterans, conducted between 1991 and 1995 by Vic Sylvester and the Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm Association, 82 percent of veterans reported having entered captured Iraqi vehicles. “This would suggest that 123,000 soldiers have been directly exposed to DU,” Durakovic said.

“Since the effects of contamination by uranium cannot be directed or contained, uranium’s chemical and radiological toxicity will create environments that are hostile not only to the health of enemy forces but of one’s own forces as well,” Durakovic said.

“Because of the chemical and radiological toxicity of DU, the small number of particles trapped in the lungs, kidneys, and bone greatly increase the risk of cancer and all other illnesses over time,” Durakovic, an expert of internal contamination of radio-isotopes, said.

According to Durakovic, other symptoms associated with DU poisoning are: emotional and mental deterioration, fatigue, loss of bowel and bladder control, and numerous forms of cancer. Such symptoms are increasing showing up in Iraq ‘s children and among Gulf War veterans and their offspring, he said.

“Although I personally served in Operation Desert Shield as Unit Commander,” Durakovic said, “my expertise of internal contamination was never used because we were never informed of the intended use of DU prior to or during the war.”

“The numbers are overwhelming, but the potential horrors only get worse,” Robert C. Koehler of the Chicago-based Tribune Media Services wrote in his March 25 article on DU weapons, “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.”

As AFP reported last week, the smallest particles of DU, when inhaled, are capable of moving throughout the human body, passing through cell walls and affecting the person’s Master Code, according to Fulk, and the “_expression of the DNA.”

Four years after the Gulf War of 1991, Life magazine published a photo-essay entitled “The Tiny Victims of Desert Storm,” which focused on the numerous cases of severe birth defects that had occurred in families of veterans from that war.

Life reported, “Of the 400 sick vets who had already answered [Don Riegle's Senate Banking] committee inquiries, a startling 65 percent reported birth defects or immune-system problems in children conceived after the war.”

AFP asked the Dept. of Veterans Affairs if they kept records of the birth defects occurring among the families of veterans, and was told they do not.

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