US To Introduce Comprehensive DU Testing Regime For Veterans
After years of effort,
including speeches, interviews, news conferences, working with
groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility, the US House
of Representatives has passed legislation that includes an amendment
by Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-D) ordering a comprehensive study on
the possible health effects from exposure to depleted uranium
on U.S. soldiers and their children.
"As long and winding as the road has been to get where we
are today, this is only the beginning - but this is a great day
because we have taken the first step to defend the U.S. soldiers
who protect and defend us," McDermott said.
Shortly after passage, Rep. McDermott received a letter from James
King, the national executive director of AMVETS, the American
Veterans organization: "This is a very important issue for
AMVETS and its membership. Our ultimate goal is to provide atomic
veterans with the tools necessary to file a claim and be considered
for due compensation. Your amendment will help begin this process.
"Again, thank you for your amendment and your support of
veterans and their families."
Rep. McDermott has spent several years working to get the House
to study DU: "For me, this is a personal, not political,
quest. My professional life turned from medicine to politics after
my service in the U.S. Navy during the 1960s, when I treated combat
soldiers returning from Vietnam.
"Back then, the Pentagon denied that Agent Orange posed any
danger to U.S. soldiers who were exposed. Decades later, the truth
finally emerged. Agent Orange harmed our soldiers. It made thousands
sick and some died. During all those years of denial, we stood
by and did nothing while soldiers suffered. "If DU poses
no danger, we need to prove it with statistically valid, and independent
scientific studies. If DU harms our soldiers, we all need to know
it, and act quickly as any doctor would, to use all of our power
to heal the sick. We owe our soldiers a full measure of the truth,
wherever that leads us."
The amendment to undertake a comprehensive study of possible health
effects to soldiers from exposure to depleted uranium was contained
in the Department of Defense Authorisation Bill.
However, as has been shown by the UK Depleted Uranium Oversight
Board, the devil will be in the detail. While the move is broadly
welcomed as a step in the right direction, it remains the civilians
on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere who are most in need of independent,
rigorous testing and health surveys.
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