By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait
I have written previously about the fact that today in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans the number of victims of depleted uranium (DU) weapons technology is growing but that the actual numbers of victims largely remain uncounted due to political aversions in the U.S. and in allied nation states to share (1) more data and (2) conduct more investigations on what DU has been doing to those who have come into contact with the deadly uranium contamination created when such weapons hit or miss their targets.
Finally, a British-funded study has been conducted in the United States. A report in November 18th’s Guardian reports that “23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers, and residents have cancer—and experts say their suffering shows the use of such [DU] weapons may be a war crime.”
The article, written by David Rose, is entitled “’Safe’ Uranium that Left a Town Contaminated”. The town referred to is in New York state in a suburb of the city of Albany. The suburb is known as Colonie and is where the department of defense had had uranium processed from the late 1950s until the plant was forcibly closed due to leaking contamination in the early 1980s.
According to Rose’s report, “Repeatedly, US agencies have claimed that the Colonie plant was reasonably safe, despite the massive clean-up. Most recently, in 2003, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a report saying that, although the pollution produced when the plant was operating might have slightly increased the risks of kidney disease and lung cancer, there was now 'no apparent public health hazard'.
The findings of British researchers show a distinctly different picture of continuing contamination and its effects on the Albany community.
Officially, the DU processing plant’s name in Colonie was under the banner of National Lead (NL), so most residents nearby had had no idea that uranium was being burnt in the incinerators, where it then left the plant via smokestack for many decades. “The NL plant on Central Avenue, Colonie's main artery, opened in 1958 and became one of the Pentagon's main suppliers. DU - the material left in huge quantities by the process of refining enriched uranium for bombs and nuclear reactors - is extremely dense.”
The British researchers, led by Prof. Randall Parrish, have taken a small sample of long-term residents of Colonie and have discovered that an extremely high percentage are suffering due to cancer and cancer related diseases, such as Chrohn’s disease. Some have chronic fatigue alongside several other series ailments. Others have already died of Chrone’s disease and similar ailments.
It is understood that the uranium oxidization process which comes from (1) burning, (2) collisions, and (3) impacts that is believed to cause the long-term damage to the environment and human beings. “A pointed rod fired at high velocity will penetrate not only armour but several feet of concrete. In 1979 a whistleblower from inside the plant told the local health department that it was releasing large amounts of DU from its 50ft chimney, which was not properly filtered. The state government carried out atmospheric tests and in 1981 ordered that main production cease. The factory shut three years later.”
Moreover, as Rose points out, “Parrish's team has found that DU contamination, which remains radioactive for millions of years, is in effect impossible to eradicate, not only from the environment but also from the bodies of humans. Twenty-three years after production ceased they tested the urine of five former workers. All are still contaminated with DU. So were 20 per cent of people tested who had spent at least 10 years living near the factory when it was still working . . . .”
More disconcerting is the fact that it has already been nearly 25 years since the NL plant stopped operation in Colonie. Yet, the DU elements still are contaminating the soil, plants , and groundwater.
This NP plant’s closure was followed by a massive cleanup involving the Army Corp of Engineers and the removal the soil at the NL plant (which was taken to Colorado). The engineers claimed to have taken away all possible residues at the plant. For example, the Army Corp claimed that there was no DU residue in the soil, but then they failed to check the air.
In short, the duration of oxidized DU, its contamination, and its residues appear to last forever in the environment where it has been dispersed in. In many cases, the contamination particles are so tiny that they are usually simply breathed in.
Thus far, images of victims of depleted uranium weapon have been mostly of foreign victims located in distant countries far away from the USA. This is where, for example, in the wake of the First Gulf War in 1991 children in both Iraq and Kuwait were seen playing on and among the uranium oxidized, contaminated, and destroyed vehicles that had been the targets of allied bombings in that short war.
Now, with the recent British study (and future ones to come along), working class Americans, like those in Colonie, who unknowingly have been contaminated with DU will become the new symbol for victims of depleted uranium tipped weapons.