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Claim: Soldiers test positive to DU
By Rosemary Desmond
March 27, 2007 04:50pm
TWO Australian soldiers who served in the first Iraq war have tested positive to depleted uranium (DU) contamination despite assurances from the federal Government they had not been exposed, an anti-nuclear group said today.
Any such admission from the Government would leave it open to millions of dollars in compensation, said Pauline Rigby, project co-ordinator for the group Depleted Uranium Silent Killer (DUSK).
Urine samples from each of the men, who served in different areas of Iraq, were sent last year for uranium isotope analysis at the JW Goethe University in Germany at a cost of $1200 each under the auspices of DUSK and the Uranium Medical Research Centre (UMRC) in Canada, Ms Rigby said.
The results, now being evaluated for publication next month in two scientific journals, showed both men had tested positive to depleted uranium contamination more than 15 years after their return from the first Gulf War.
Ms Rigby said depleted uranium was the toxic and radioactive waste from the nuclear enrichment process.
Denser and heavier than lead, it is used as a projectile to penetrate heavy bunkers and tanks and in armour.
"This is a huge issue about compensation which the Government would be determined they will never pay," Ms Rigby said.
A 52-year-old Sunshine Coast man, known only as Frank to protect his identitiy, said he was one of those tested.
In 1991, he was an army medic in the mountains of northern Iraq, aiding Kurdish refugees fleeing the persecution of Saddam Hussein's forces.
He could not work and had suffered skin rashes on his face, arms and neck, swollen joints, chronic fatigue and dizzy spells but his doctor could treat only his symptoms because he was at a loss to explain their cause.
Frank's wife, from whom he is now separated, had cervical cancer and burning semen syndrome, a condition reported by American Gulf War veterans or their sexual partners after returning from the Persian Gulf.
They or their sexual partners experienced a burning sensation after skin and/or vaginal contact with semen.
Frank said he wanted only recognition from the Government.
"I'm not looking for millions of dollars in compensation," he said.
"I just want to be treated fairly and I want our service recognised so that I can clearly have what I am entitled to and so my children can also seek and receive free of charge any and all testing and be honestly told and informed of where they stand."
A Defence spokesperson said the department had no knowledge of the two men.
Australia had not used DU munitions since 1990 and Australian personnel were not in immediate proximity to sites in Iraq or Afghanistan where DU munitions were used by Australia's coalition partners.
"Accordingly, it is highly unlikely that any ADF personnel received significant exposure to DU residues in Iraq or Afghanistan," the spokesperson said.