Response to 'The Trail of a Bullet' series Thank you for printing the series of investigative news articles on depleted uranium (DU), a radioactive toxic waste used for the first time in the Gulf War - a toxin indicted by veterans as a cause for Gulf War illnesses among some US veterans ("The trail of a bullet," Parts 1 and 2, April 29 and 30).
Three major points must be raised:
First, Bernard Rostker, the Pentagon's point man on DU, when asked by Gulf War veterans, refused to consider new medical research into respiratory problems, reproductive outcomes, and cancers among ill Gulf War veterans. Gulf War veterans believe it is highly significant that DU is found in veterans' semen.
Second, the US military rewrote regulations exempting troops deployed overseas into DU contamination zones from medical screening and health-care procedures. Gulf War veterans believe this is an outrageous attempt by the military to avoid a paper trail of exposures and treatment and thus avoid financial and moral responsibility.
Third, due to the failure of the military to maintain DU exposure records during the Gulf War and today, Gulf War veterans believe US troops should be presumed exposed to the highest levels and provided with health care for any medical problems associated with radioactive and toxic depleted uranium exposures.
Those who place their lives on the line for the US deserve nothing less than a square deal.
Paul Sullivan Washington Executive director National Gulf War Resource Center
I was quite displeased with aspects of the series. Much of it was well-balanced, but there were omissions. It did not quantify the radiation claims it made for DU weaponry, except to say that the dusts led to radiation levels "35 times normal background radiation," and that the remains of tanks were at 50 times background level.
But there was no information about what the normally acceptable ranges of exposure are. Is there any clinically supported reason to believe these levels are bad? How does the radioactivity of these desert battlefields compare with that of other environments such as high altitudes, or near natural deposits of uranium?
There is far too much fear-mongering about radioactivity, and not enough fact-based reporting.
Mike Strub Troy, Mich.
I read with interest your fascinating and disturbing series on DU weapons and the effect they have had on the environment in Iraq. One point the article missed is that uranium is quite soluble in surface waters. This means that whereas DU contamination may linger for a long time in the deserts of Iraq, it may be dispersed rather quickly in the humid environment of Kosovo.
At first glance this sounds like good news because it means that the contamination in Kosovo will not last for the billions of years it will take the uranium to decay.
However, because uranium in Kosovo will be dispersed by surface water, it also means that for some time after the use of DU weapons in Kosovo there will be a significant danger that the water supplies in the area could be contaminated with uranium.
I hope that our military commanders take these points and the all the excellent observations you made in your articles into account before ever using DU weapons again in combat.
Ronald Frost Laramie, Wyo. Department of Geology and Geophysics University of Wyoming
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