FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9, 2004
Schumer Meets With New York Army National Guard Members Back From Iraq Suffering From Depleted Uranium Exposure
9 soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company based in Rockland County requested a personal meeting with Schumer
US Senator Charles E. Schumer met today with the soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company based in Rockland County who have tested positive for depleted uranium. At the meeting, which was requested by the soldiers, Schumer promised to take the Guardsmens' concerns to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Schumer also asked Rumsfeld to ensure that all GIs who served or are currently serving in or near the Iraqi town where 442nd was based get tested and treated for depleted uranium exposure.
"When it takes an exposé by a newspaper to prod the Army to act, clearly someone's dropped the ball," Schumer said. "But I think we all want to look forward to ensure that our other men and women in uniform serving in the same area get some benefit from what the men of the 442nd went through. The Pentagon still has the chance to do the right thing and give our soldiers the tests they deserve and any treatment they need as quickly as possible."
News reports over last weekend said that four of nine soldiers from the 442nd tested positive for depleted uranium. The members of the company became sick last summer while stationed in the Iraqi town of Samawah. They were examined and tested at the request of the Daily News by an independent uranium expert who concluded that four had "almost certainly" been exposed to radioactive dust released by depleted uranium shells fired by American troops.
In August, Dutch soldiers arrived in Samawah to replace the Guardsmen. Dutch press reports said that those soldiers swept the area around the train depot with Geiger counters and had found high radiation levels. In February, after Japanese troops moved into Samawah, a Japanese journalist with a Geiger counter reported finding radiation readings 300 times higher than background levels. But several of the soldiers in the 442ndsaid that doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and Fort Dix in New Jersey refused to test them for exposure for months.
Depleted uranium, a waste product of the uranium enrichment process, has been used by the U.S. and British military for more than 15 years in some artillery shells and as armor plating for tanks. It is twice as heavy as lead. Tanks hit by depleted uranium shells are the biggest sources of battlefield radioactivity because when depleted uranium penetrators hit a target and explode, a fine aerosol of radioactive dust is formed.
Most members of the 442nd are still overseas. The Company is made up mostly of New York police officers, firefighters and correction officers. Today's meeting with Schumer took place in Fresh Meadows, Queens, at the home of Sergeant Jerry Ojeda.