Press Release May 16, 2013
Re: Depleted Uranium in Hawaii
further contact: Jim Albertini 966-7622
Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action
P.O. Box AB Ola’a (Kurtistown) Hawai’i 96760 Phone 808-966-7622
The Facts about Depleted Uranium (DU) in
The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) draft brochure “The Facts about Depleted Uranium in Hawaii” has come undercriticism, with some constructive suggestions from community and technical resource people. (The DOH draft brochure is attached to this email.) Below is a summary of a community commentary. The full length commentaries from people have been sent directly to the DOH.
Retired Ph.D. Geologist, Michael Reimer, of Kona said “When the length of the commentary exceeds the length of the original document for review, something is wrong.” Doctor Reimer, offered some suggestions to correct some inaccuracies and misleading statements. For example: DOH statement “Depleted uranium has 40% less radioactivity than natural uranium.” Dr. Reimer: “This is misleading. It has 40 percent less radioactivity at the time it is separated but daughters continue to grow and radioactivity increases. In 50 years, the time since the use of DU at PTA, radiation has increased another 20 percent.”
Another example — DOH: “Is the public exposed to DU? It is unlikely that the general public is inhaling small particles of DU.”
Dr. Reimer: “This section might be better titled “How is the public exposed to DU?… How DU is aerosolized becomes the relevant question. At PTA, there are several mechanisms. The most likely is that spotting rounds have become pulverized when explosives strike on or near a spotting round. The aerosol can form mechanically (the shock and friction), physically, (heat and pressure generation), or chemically (conversion to an oxide that is easily friable). DU has been found over 25 miles from its source in a study in New York State. Aerosols move in the wind and once deposited can be resuspended and move again. Very little energy is needed to resuspend the aerosol. Buried DU fragments, more likely to be oxidized, can be aerosolized when struck with an explosive device such as a mortar, howitzer or rocket shell or even vehicular traffic.
Dr. Reimer stated in an earlier section:
“Regarding radiation, one should not ignore the US EPA holding that all unnecessary radiation should be avoided. They base this in the theory that radiation risk is linear related to dose and has no threshold.”
Dr. Reimer said, “As a concluding statement, I do not understand why the Army in cooperation with the Hawai`i Department of Health does not design and conduct a study to resolve the DU issue. There is no need to speculate if DU aerosols are or are not present. Establish adequate measurement protocols and make the measurements. It is clear that the previous measurements of aerosols requested by the Army were insufficient to resolve whether the uranium detected was DU or natural U.
“Engage the active community in this study. Develop a program that will address the transport fate and the distribution, if any, of depleted uranium from PTA. This makes it a win-win-win situation. The Army, the State, and the residents of the Big Island. It is so simple to configure, the costs are moderate, and you will have resolved this issue. Remove this issue from speculation and into reality.”
Others offering comment:
Retired Army MD and MPH Dr. Lorrin W. Pang said: “To bring in new agencies now, like CDC without the publics chance to raise issues with them is not fair…”
In a newly released video entitle “Pohakuloa: Now that you know. Do you care?” which can be viewed at Vimeo.com/163867248 Dr. Pang states: “DU explodes on impact at 3000 degrees, half settles to the ground, half goes into the air –aerosolized uranium. DU in and of itself is not that dangerous. But alpha particle emitters within your body is the most deadly form of radiation of all. It is stopped by your skin,but in your body it will mutate your DNA, more than any other type of radiation.”
…”A lot of people, except the U.S. and UK which have a conflict of interest, consider DU a weapon of mass destruction. Why would you have a guy (the Army) with a conflict of interest, doing his own quality assurance?”
Cory Harden, a member of the Sierra Club said “If DU is so safe, how come the Army doesn’t use it any more (in training)?” An Army spokesperson said it was banned from being used in training since 1996.
Kona resident, Doug Fox said : “Don’t look, don’t find, don’t tell. Uranium is not primarily a gamma emitter (it’s alpha) so that to test a range by helicopter for gamma emission is inadequate methodology. Only one per cent of the site was ever tested by them using the wrong methodology.”
“The DOH statement that “The health effects of uranium are due to its chemical toxicity, rather than radiation” is not true. “Inhaled DU alpha particles are one of the most powerful mutagens known to science.”
DOH said: “It is not known whether uranium is harmful to an unborn child” Fox retorts: “This is willful ignorance. Birth defects have been vividly portrayed in Life magazine showing armless children of US vets exposed to DU munitions smoke.” An “Epidemiological study by Dr. Chris Busby of the UK showed the impact of DU munitions on Fallujah, Iraq was higher than radiation exposures at Hiroshima.”
DOH: “It is unlikely that the general public is inhaling small particles of DU”. Fox: “This is another smokescreen. The truth is it is very likely that travelers through the Mauna Kea State Park area have been exposed in the past. I personally witnessed a big spike in radiation detection from a dust devil coming off the old Range 11 in May 2007. Range 11 is where anti tank penetrator munitions have been tested.”
Doug Rokke Ph.D.; Major, retired/disabled; U.S. Army former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project had this to say about the DOH DU draft brochure:
“As the former director of the United States Army Depleted Uranium Project, former 3rd U.S. Army DU team health physicist and team medic during Operation Desert Storm, and confirmed DU casualty I AM UPSET AND HORRIFIED at the amount of misinformation – down-right wrong information contained in your DU fact paper that negates- ignores actual health and environmental effects. .. false information… is required by direct written DOD- Army orders per the 1991 Los Alamos memo ( see http://www.traprockpeace.org/twomemos.html ) in order to sustain the use of uranium weapons while avoiding all liability for the known serious adverse health and environmental effects as were specified in the March 1991 Defense Nuclear agency memo and thousands of pages of other reports.As to radiological measurements-any effective measurement: that is detection and quantification requires very specialized equipment (AN PDR 77 with RPO kit) and techniques that I and my team developed and validated for the US Army during the DU project burn and impact tests. .. once du is released into the environment… it will never be safe at all no matter what is done. THE REGION AND EQUIPMENT- STRUCTURES-TERRAIN- FOOD- WATER – VEGETATION WITHIN THE DANGER ZONE EXTENDING OUT DOZENS OF MILES ACTUALLY HUNDREDS OF MILESREMAIN A HAZARD FOR ETERNITY.”
According to Dr. Rokke, “DOD documents confirm that potential health effects, including: lung cancer, respiratory, eye, skin, and genetic abnormalities. The VA reports DU causing: sleep problems, mood swings, upper or lower respiratory tract symptoms, neuropsychological symptoms (including memory loss), chronic fatigue and immune system dysfunction, skin rashes and unusual hair loss, aching joints, headaches, abdominal pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, menstrual disorders, gastrointestinal symptoms, nervous disorders (such as numbness of a limb), multiple chemical sensitivity, birth defects in children whose parents were exposed.”
Points raised by Hawaii peace activist Jim Albertini
1. A New York State DU factory study showed DU dispersed more than 25 miles away.
2. My understanding is the Army was only prohibited from using DU in training in 1996. It was first used at PTA in 1961 according to the Army. What does that tell you? It tells me that if it was not prohibited in training, it was likely used in training. What about other military branches and foreign countries that have trained at PTA?
3. No mention of other possible DU use than Davy Crockett. Cluster bombs and a wide range of other weapons have been used at PTA, many of which may have involved DU.
4. What does the DOH “ambient background surveys” consist — monitor on for 5 minutes once a month?
5. Offer 24 hour urine tests for PTA and DLNR long term workers in or around PTA, Mauna Kea Park, etc.
6 My understanding is The Waiki’i sample did not rule out the presence of DU
7. Less than 1% of PTA has been tested for DU
8. My radiation monitor Digilert-50, picked up 2 spikes of over 30CPM at Mauna Kea park on Sunday 4/28/13 when background readings were between 5-20 for 3 hours. The wind was coming from the south where DU had been confirmed fired approximately 1 mile from Mauna Kea Park.
9. No mention that spotting rounds bombed for 50 years with high explosives likely would burn the DU. If not where are all the large fragments –unaccounted for, missing?
10. No mention of the horrendous health problems of Fallujah Iraq which was heavily bombed with DU by the U.S. Birth defects, cancers, etc.
11. No mention is made of the Saddle Rd as a possible avenue of exposure to DU. For 50 years the old Saddle Rd came within ½ mile of ranges where DU was used. Signs along the old Saddle Rd read “Live Fire Overhead.” The New Saddle Rd. has resulted in increased traffic which risks exposing more people to DU and transporting DU around the island in the same way little fire ants, cocqui frogs, and weed seeds are transported by vehicles.
12. Uranium in urine: I know of 3 Hilo MDs and a naturopathic doctor who have patients with elevated uranium in their urine found by 24 hour urine tests for heavy metals. Recently I asked the PTA commander as an act of good faith to the community to offer 24 hour urine tests to long-term PTA employees to see if any have elevated uranium readings as well. The commander refused. I’ve asked the DOH to offer similar test to state workers at Mauna Kea park and others who work in the area or travel the Saddel Rd regularly. I am still waiting for a response.
13. Has DU been used at Makua military reservation? Kaho’olawe island and other present or former military ranges in Hawaii? What other ranges are being investigated for possible exposure to DU and what is the status of the investigations?
14. In July 2008, the Hawaii County Council, by a vote of 8-1 passed resolution 639-08. That resolution called for the military to take 8 actions to address the potential hazard of DU, including “a complete halt to B-2 bombing missions and to all live-firing exercises and other activities at the Pohakuloa Training Area that create dust until there is an assessment and clean up of the depleted uranium already present.” The seven other actions called for establishing a permanent high tech monitoring system to ensure air quality control; citizen monitoring system to work with the military to assure transparency and community confidence; host quarterly meetings to update and inform the public; ensure permanent funds are available for the monitoring programs; provide a liaison to the County of Hawaii to facilitate communication; provide semiannual reports to the County summarizing DU monitoring , detection, and mitigation efforts; the military shall conduct a search of all records for firing DU at PTA and other Hawaii state military sites and release the information to the public.
To date, it does not appear that any of the actions requested of the military by the Hawaii County Council in July 2008 have been taken by the military. Why?
Additional comments by Hawaii Public Health Doctor/researcher, Carol Murry, DrPH: “the information in the draft brochure concerning the discovery of the use of DU in Hawai’i ignored the fact that the military denied its use for several years. Despite statements that the Department of Health has no responsibility concerning DU, the DOH is responsible for the health of its citizens and, thus, does have a duty to be involved. The areas surrounding the military sites where DU was used are vulnerable to exposure and some of the landhas been leased to the military by the state. It appears that the DOH has shared its monitoring methods and results with the NRC and Army, but not its citizens, leading to mistrust. The section on health effects of DU appears to ignore known health issues and to misstate that the only effect is due to chemical toxicity rather than radiation. The section on studies done in Hawai’i doesn’t address the issues of those working at Pohakuloa, those traveling the saddle Rd, or downwind vs. the general population of the Big Island. The section on exposure discusses dust, soil and sediment testing, but not monitoring radiation in the air. Many will not believe or trust the DOH until it works in partnership with concerned citizens, rather than solely in partnership with the military and the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).”
DOH brochure statement: “Given the nature of the spotting rounds, the environmental data indicating a low potential for DU to become airborne, and the distance to populated areas, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR), a federal health agency, concluded that the general population around PTA is not exposed to DU. The Hawaii Department of Health concurs with ATSDR’s conclusion.”
Conclusion of Malu Aina:
ATSDR and the DOH have not presented credible evidence and good science to support the above statement. More research and testing are needed to determine the amount of DU used at Pohakuloa, its dispersal, and possible health impacts to troops, residents, and visitors alike.
Show the community good faith, transparency, credible evidence, good science, respect, and partnership. To date all are lacking.