- High levels of depleted uranium found in the bones of
a Canadian veteran who died last year may re-energize the debate about
the controversial illness known as Persian Gulf war syndrome.
- The bones of Joseph Terry Riordon, a former military
policeman with the Canadian Forces who served in the 1991 gulf war and
then battled mysterious and painful symptoms until his death last April,
have been tested and studied by a U.S. doctor.
- Asaph Durokavic, an expert on Persian Gulf war syndrome
and a former research scientist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,
told CBC Radio yesterday that he did not anticipate finding such high levels
of uranium isotopes in Mr. Riordon's bones nearly a full decade after the
war. Dr. Durokavic has also documented traces of uranium in the urine of
- The new findings are expected to fuel the controversial
argument that depleted uranium -- used as a coating to harden weapons and
tanks -- is the cause of the mysterious illnesses that have beset veterans
of both the gulf war and the conflict in Croatia.
- In separate reports in the past two years, the U.S.,
Canadian and British governments have dismissed the theory that depleted
uranium could be linked to the illness.
- "If the government doesn't want to admit it, then
this report will do nothing," said Larry Black, 43, from his home
in New Minas, N.S.
- Upon returning from Croatia in 1993 after a six-month
stint during which he took care of his outfit's ammunition, Mr. Black immediately
began to experience shaking and profuse sweating. Today he is nearly blind,
extremely sensitive to light, and suffers from depression and agoraphobia
(fear of public places).
- Samples of his blood and urine are now being examined
to see if they test positive for depleted uranium.
- "There is no way you're going to get a government
official to say these cases are similar," he said. "But my symptoms
are similar [to Terry Riordon's]. . . . When I have my answers, people
- An estimated 320 tonnes of depleted uranium -- which
is largely uranium 238, a byproduct from the refining of uranium 235 --
was used for the first time during the gulf war as a hardening agent on
the tips of missiles and artillery shells, allowing them to penetrate tanks.
It was also used by munitions manufacturers to armour-plate military vehicles.
- The uranium coating is safe to the touch, but becomes
dangerously radioactive inside the human body, according to some experts.
They argue that when uranium-coated weaponry exploded during warfare it
created clouds of toxic particles that were sucked into soldiers' lungs.
These heavy metal particles decomposed over a long time internally, migrated
to the soldiers' bloodstreams and bones, and left them fighting ever-worsening
constellations of symptoms.
- "The kind of radiation given off by U-238 is alpha
radiation. It's not considered a threat outside of the body, but what it
does inside it is debated," said Gordon Edwards, president of the
Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and a consultant
on radiation-health issues. "However, it is well recognized that it
is dangerous inside the body, as much as 20 times more damaging per unit
dose than gamma radiation or X-rays."
- The posthumous studies on Mr. Riordon were made possible
by his widow Susan Riordon, who lives in Yarmouth, N.S. She has become
a tireless activist for the estimated 100 other official Canadian victims
of Persian Gulf war syndrome, and dedicated his body to research. She also
declined a military funeral for her husband last year because of the government's
refusal to recognize the illness. Mrs. Riordon was in North Carolina yesterday
at a conference on Persian Gulf war syndrome.
- Reached in Yarmouth yesterday, her daughter Tracy Riordon
said her father "lived and breathed the military," but in the
end became very frustrated with his illness and the lack of answers. She
said she hopes the results of these latest tests on his bones will help
- "The message it should send to the Canadian Forces
and the government is that they should do some studies first and then speak,
rather than speak and do studies," said Harold Leduc, president of
the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans' Association in Victoria, B.C.
- In Ottawa yesterday, Defence Minister Art Eggleton said
that gulf-war veterans who fear that exposure to depleted uranium dust
might have made them sick should contact the federal government to arrange
for medical tests.
- Uranium 238 In Body Wastes
- From Dan Mcmurray <Dan.Mcmurray@usa.alcatel.com
- Just a note on the story about Uranium 238 found in body
wastes from a Gulf War veteran.
- In cities, body wastes go into a sewage system where
they are eventually processed and, in some cases, the dried leftover is
sold as fertilizer. In rural areas, the wastes go into septic systems that
are eventually cleaned and the black "goo" goes somewhere (???).
- I wonder what happens to Uranium metal and Uranium salts
present in the sewage? If Uranium salts are soluble, it seems to me that
they will go into lakes, the ground, and ground water; and will eventually
poison the food supply. Certainly, metals and metal salts in fertilizer
go straight into the food supply and eventually into the ground water and
lakes and streams.
- After the Gulf War, it seems to me like there should
be a lot of finely powdered U-238 all over Iraq. When it rains (and it
does rain in the desert), it seems to me that the U-238 will go into the
- Interesting thoughts on how to defeat and poison an enemy,
and then poison yourself when your soldiers come home.
- Robert D. McMurray
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
Site Served by TheHostPros