[ RadSafe ] Sandia completes depleted uranium study

James Salsman james at bovik.org
Fri Jul 22 15:12:48 CDT 2005

Albert C. Marshall
Sandia National Laboratories

Dear Sir:

In my previous message, I complained that your statement,
"no excess health effects  of any type have been observed
from epidemiological studies for uranium workers," based
on A. Bordujenko, "Military Medical Aspects of Depleted
Uranium Munitions," ADF Health, vol. 3 (September 2002) was
considerably out of date.

Please find below two articles which might help you update
that particular topic.  I also suggest that you review the

(a)  Voegtlin and Hodge, editors, Pharmacology and Toxicology of Uranium
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953);

(b)  P.E. Morrow, et al., "Inhalation Studies of Uranium Trioxide,"
Health Physics, vol. 23 (1972), pp. 273-280;

(c)  A.F. Malenchenko, et al., "Effect of uranium on the induction and
course of experimental autoimmune orchitis and  hyroiditis," J. Hyg.
Epidemiol. Microbiol. Immunol., vol. 22 (1978), pp. 268-277;

(d)  Q. Hu and S. Zhu, "Induction of chromosomal aberrations in male
mouse germ cells by uranyl fluoride containing enriched uranium,"
Mutation Research, vol. 244 (1990), pp. 209-214;

(e)  T.C. Pellmar, et al., "Distribution of uranium in rats implanted
with depleted uranium pellets," Toxicol. Sci., vol. 49 (1999), pp. 29-39;

(f)  A.C. Miller, et al., "Depleted uranium-catalyzed oxidative DNA
damage: absence of significant alpha particle decay," Journal of
Inorganic Biochemistry, vol. 91, no. 1 (2002), pp. 246-252;

(g)  "Overall, the risk of any malformation among pregnancies reported 
by men was 50% higher in Gulf War Veterans (GWV) compared with Non-GWVs"
-- Doyle et al. Int. J. Epidemiol., vol. 33 (2004), pp. 74-86

(h)  "Infants conceived postwar to male GWVs had significantly higher 
prevalence of tricuspid valve insufficicieny (relative risk [RR], 2.7; 
95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-6.6; p = 0.039) and aortic valve 
stenosis (RR, 6.0; 95% CI, 1.2-31.0; p = 0.026) compared to infants 
conceived postwar to nondeployed veteran males. Among infants of male 
GWVs, aortic valve stenosis (RR, 163; 95% CI, 0.09-294; p = 0.011) and 
renal agenesis or hypoplasia (RR, 16.3; 95% CI, 0.09-294; p = 0.011) 
were significantly higher among infants conceived postwar than prewar."
-- Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. vol. 67, no. 4 (2003), pp.

And (i) Table 1 here:

I note that you have made several factual errors and a contradiction
in your report, as are described at the end of this message.  I look
forward to your response.  Thank you.

James Salsman

--- begin 1 of 2 articles ---


Former Marine suffered from secret uranium work at Bethlehem, fought battle

Buffalo News

Like so many others of his generation, Gene O'Brien went off to fight
the last great war and returned to a job at the bustling Bethlehem Steel

As a Marine, O'Brien faced his share of danger.

But nothing, he believes, compared to the danger he unknowingly
encountered at the sprawling steel plant on the Lake Erie shore.

The invisible threat was radiation from uranium that steelworkers were
rolling into rods during secret government experiments in the early 1950s.

O'Brien wasn't alone. Thousands of men worked in the mills, exposed to
the danger.

Of those workers, 2,985 claims for compensation had been filed on behalf
of former employees at 13 area plants under the 2000 Energy Employees
Occupational Illness Compensation program, as of early November.

What makes O'Brien different is that he got money from the government
for his sufferings.

Not many others - just a few hundred - have seen any cash.

"I came out of the Marine Corps and World War II and never knew I went
into World War III," O'Brien said. "I didn't get the protective
equipment in World War III that I had in World War II."

O'Brien, 78, believes radiation at the plant damaged the front temporal
lobe in his brain and led to the removal of his bladder and prostate.

The U.S. government apparently also believes radiation led to his health
problems. In November, it issued him a check for $150,000.

"It took him three years to get this," said O'Brien's wife of 54 years,
Jane, glancing at the piles of paperwork that clutter the kitchen table
in their Elma home. "Three years of stuff all over the table."

The federal law was designed to compensate workers who were unknowingly
exposed to radiation when they worked on secret atomic weapons programs
and later contracted certain cancers linked to that exposure.

Successful claimants - like O'Brien - get $150,000 and money toward
medical bills.

But nearly half of the claims involving area plants have been denied.
O'Brien's is one of just 357 claims that have been paid so far. And he's
one of the few successful claimants willing to talk about his
experiences with the compensation program.

"It's good news," O'Brien said of his award, "but I'd rather have my
health. And I feel sorry for the guys who are left. I don't think
they're going to get anywhere."

That's because he feels those still pursuing claims are being victimized
by the government bureaucracy administering the program.
Three agencies

Three federal agencies - the departments of Labor, Health and Human
Services and Energy - are involved in the program, which started with a
promise by the government that it would lean toward approving claims.

"That has not been the case," said Edwin Walker, leader of a group of
former Bethlehem Steel workers who are critical of the program's
administration. "They fight. They argue. They just don't respond."

In the case of Bethlehem Steel claimants, Walker, O'Brien and others
blame a computer model designed to determine the likelihood that a
claimant's cancer was caused by radiation exposure.

Earlier this week, a government audit pointed to significant flaws in
the model, prompting local congressional leaders to call for it to be

But a government official whose agency, the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health, is responsible for developing the model
has defended it and the program's administration.

"I think there are some very positive things to say about Bethlehem
Steel and the claims in New York," said Larry Elliott, director of
NIOSH's Office of Compensation Analysis and Support. "New York is much
farther ahead than the other states."

The Bethlehem Steel model, Elliott said, is "a scientifically sound . .
. document. It includes very favorable claimant assumptions."

The model was needed because there is scant hard evidence detailing how
much radiation workers were exposed to in the late 1940s and early
1950s, when the government conducted experiments at Bethlehem. The
experiments involved rolling uranium for a federal reactor in Ohio.

O'Brien was an electrician at Bethlehem Steel. He didn't work much at
the bar mill where the rollings took place, but, as a grievance chairman
for the steelworkers union, he said he frequently visited the area to
talk with workers about seniority issues they were having.

It was around this time, O'Brien said, that he inexplicably started
having blackouts. Some occurred while he was driving his car, leading to
at least three accidents.

"It was only after those soldiers came back from the first Gulf War with
health problems caused by irradiated bombs that I made the connection,"
he said. "Exactly the same thing happened to me. I was hit with uranium

First cancer in 1977

Ultimately, the blackouts led to his leaving Bethlehem Steel on
disability in 1975.

The cancers followed.

In 1977, doctors diagnosed cancer in his bladder. That disappeared
following chemotherapy, but in 1982, doctors found cancer in his
prostate and, as a precaution, decided to remove both. In 1999, he was
diagnosed with rectal cancer.

With two major surgeries, O'Brien thought the chances of a successful
claim were good. He was stunned when his claim was initially rejected.

"When I first got rejected, I was hot," he said. "If I didn't get it,
who the hell is going to get it?"

That's a question Walker said he has heard over and over.

"When we have our meetings, and there's usually 200 people or so, you
hear them all (complain), not just one or two or ten. It's all the way
down the line, the frustration," he said.

Walker is a one-time Bethlehem bricklayer who subsequently got bladder
cancer. His claim has been rejected, and his appeal of that rejection
has been denied.

O'Brien said the rejection of his claim prompted him to refile, this
time adding what he thought were relatively minor skin cancers he'd had
in the past.

As it turned out, "with the skin cancer alone, I would have had enough"
to receive the compensation.

"I almost kicked the bucket with all this other stuff," Walker said of
the bladder, prostrate and rectal cancers. Yet it was the inclusion of
the skin cancers that resulted in his award.

"I don't get it," said O'Brien, echoing a sentiment shared by many
frustrated claimants.

--- begin 2 of 2 articles ---


Stirring Up the Toxic Dust

They turned Uncle Sam's uranium into atom bombs, and the
work made them sick. Now they've got a new champion --
Hillary Clinton

by Kristen Lombardi
The Village Voice
June 21st, 2005

Eugene Ruchalski probably never dreamed he'd say anything
nice about Hillary Clinton. A lifelong Republican, he served
five proud terms as the highway superintendent in his
hometown of Boston Hills, a Buffalo suburb. At 68, and set
in his ways, he admits to entertaining conservative ideas
about what he calls "women in politics."

Yet lately, his opinion of New York's junior senator has
been changing. He counts himself among a select group of
Buffalo-area residents for whom Clinton has become a
crusader. Ruchalski's father was one of thousands of
employees exposed to radiation at 36 mills in western New
York. In his case, it was at the local Bethlehem Steel
plant, now defunct, in the late 1940s and early '50s. Many
of those workers got sick.

Now, when Ruchalski meets with the others, he hears about
all the work the senator is doing to bring his family
justice. "If she can deliver for us," he says, somewhat
sheepishly, "she can guarantee herself a vote." His.

Anyone wondering why Senator Clinton has gotten so popular
upstate, with positive numbers pushing 70 percent, need look
no further than the Bethlehem Steel families. Their lives
changed for good in 2000, when the federal government
admitted that workers in 350 mills nationwide had "rolled"
uranium to make nuclear bombs—but never knew it. On lunch
breaks at Bethlehem, they blithely sat around on piles of
the radioactive stuff, eating their sandwiches and inhaling
a deadly dust.

Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation
Program Act, created by Congress, retired workers who got
sick, or their survivors, could apply for a $150,000 payment
from the government. To date, 1,218 Bethlehem families have
filed claims with the Labor Department and the National
Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, the two
agencies that administer the program. The old Bethlehem
Steel plants—located in South Buffalo, Lackawanna, and
Hamburg—have drawn the most applications not only from New
York, but nationwide.

The response has not been great. Of the current claims, only
half, or 632, have made it through the first screening for
eligibility. Of those, up to 383 claims—more than 60
percent—have been denied.

"Obviously, the program is just not working for these
people," says Dan Utech, Clinton's main staffer on the
issue. This month, his boss plans to file a bill that would
make it easier for the families to collect. "The senator
believes it took too long for the government to accept
responsibility in the first place. Now, it's getting to be

Clinton's role as champion for nuclear-weapons workers may
come as a surprise to those who remember her old ties to the
dreaded Wal-Mart. As Arkansas first lady, she served six
years on the board of the union-busting behemoth, notorious
during her directorship for alleged child labor abuses.
Wal-Mart has since become corporate enemy number one,
causing some Democrats to fear that Clinton's onetime
affiliation will scare away the labor vote if she makes a
bid for the White House in 2008.

But if her advocacy on Bethlehem Steel is any indication,
Clinton is now trying to build up a solid record of
defending worker rights—particularly when it comes to health
and safety. Jim Melius, of the Laborers Union, in Albany,
has followed the plight of these families for years now, and
he finds her work on their behalf telling. "It says that
she's willing to stand up and fight and try to fix the
problem." And because of her new bill, Melius adds, "The
story with Bethlehem isn't over."

That story began in 1949, at the start of the Cold War, when
the military was racing to make the atomic bomb. Mills and
foundries dominated the Buffalo landscape, yet one company
reigned supreme: Bethlehem Steel. Its facilities spanned
three miles along Lake Erie, with state-of-the-art equipment
and a workforce of 22,000.

"Everybody worked at the steel mill," says Frank Panasuk, a
retired detective from Hamburg. A large man with huge,
square-framed glasses, he drove to the old Bethlehem complex
on a recent Wednesday and along the way listed relatives who
worked there—his father, his father's five brothers, his
mother's five brothers.

Most of the 1,700-acre site sits vacant and weeded-over
today, abandoned when the company went belly-up in the '80s.
But the bar mill where workers rolled steel and, for four
years during the Cold War, uranium, still stands. Now a
galvanizing outfit, the building looks tired, its rusted
siding barely hanging on. Driving on a utility road, Panasuk
spots some workers toiling over a fire.

"Boy," he says, taking in the scene of power lines and
railroad tracks, "this brings back memories."

Not all of those memories are good. Panasuk's dad died in
1987, just weeks after developing stomach cancer. Before
that, he suffered from colon cancer. He spent his entire
career at the mill, serving as a metal inspector for 35
years. The tenure did Panasuk's dad proud; it has haunted
his family.

Ever since 2000, when the government came clean about its
atomic-weapons program, people have had to come to grips
with the weight of a decades-old secret at Bethlehem. From
1949 to 1952, the mill did contract work for the country's
fledgling nuclear arsenal, rolling billets of uranium into
rods for reactors. But few knew the true nature of the
project—and those who did had to keep quiet. All the while,
workers handled toxic material. They pressed it, shaped it,
ground it, and squeezed it, unwittingly.

Former employees and their families have had to face the
reality that the government exposed them to some of the most
dangerous matter on earth—"basically poisoned these folks,"
as one Clinton aide puts it.

At Bethlehem, as opposed to other facilities, the uranium
was especially deadly. According to former workers and
government officials, the company did nothing to control
radiation levels. Employees had no body suits to protect
them, no badges to monitor exposure. They didn't even have
masks. Worse still, they had to endure the constant presence
of uranium dust.

"For years I inhaled that dust," relays Russ Early, 81, a
Vernon Downs resident with a shock of white hair and a
feisty disposition. A cancer survivor, he operated a crane
in the bar mill, laboring there for 43 years, soaking up the
dust. It blurred his vision and scratched his throat. It
settled on his food and in his coffee. It got so hot it
could burn a blister on the skin the size of a silver dollar.

Now that the Bethlehem secret has been revealed, the dust
and its sting finally make sense to folks. And so do other
things. Like all the talk in the late '40s and early '50s of
a "government project" at the mill. Or the unexplained
sightings of guards watching over the rods. Or the army
trucks coming and going on weekends.

And then there are all those cancer deaths. Edwin Walker, a
genial 71-year-old from Lackawanna, held a Bethlehem post as
a bricklayer from 1951 to 1954, during the uranium project.
He was one of 15 men in the so-called "hot gang," the group
that patched holes in furnaces. Today, only he and one other
are still living. Everyone else was killed by cancer. Nor
have Walker and his colleague avoided the disease—he has
bladder cancer, his friend colon.

"I consider that more than a coincidence," he says. "We are
victims of the government's secrecy."

Walker and dozens more say the government is victimizing
them again—this time, by refusing to compensate them for
their illnesses. When the agencies set up the compensation
program, they presented the claims process as simple.
Bethlehem workers, or their survivors, could apply if they
worked at the mill during the uranium rollings and if they
got certain cancers—22 in all, including of the lungs, skin,
colon, and pancreas. In return, they'd get $150,000.

But it turns out the company didn't keep records of which
employees worked at the bar mill during the uranium
procedures, and the records it did keep are incomplete. As a
result, says Larry Elliott of the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health, the agency has had to
develop a formula, called "dose reconstruction," to evaluate

It's a complicated model, but here's the gist: NIOSH uses
software to predict a person's risk for developing cancer,
based on exposure. It takes into account such factors as the
radiation type, where the person worked, how long shifts
lasted, and so on. NIOSH relies on the few existing records
about the uranium work at Bethlehem, Elliott says, and the
formula skews toward the inhalation of uranium dust, thus
putting a premium on lung and kidney cancer, and leukemia.

Critics argue the formula is flawed. They say NIOSH doesn't
have enough information to accurately determine individual
dosages. When first creating the formula, officials failed
to interview retired employees or to visit the bar mill.
Instead, they substituted data from a neighboring mill, in
Lockport, New York.

"The model assumes that you can be precise about an
individual's exposure," says Melius, of the Laborers Union,
who sits on an advisory board overseeing the process. But
because of the minimal records, he explains, "It's an almost
impossible task to piece together."

The result? A lot of people have had their claims unfairly
denied—at least, that's what Early thinks. He handled the
uranium, and has suffered from rectal cancer for 17 years.
In 1987, he underwent surgery in which three tumors, his
appendix, and his gall bladder were removed. Yet he's been
denied compensation—twice.

"They said it wasn't bad enough," he says, referring to his
estimated dosage. Lifting his Hawaiian shirt and poking at
his colostomy bag, he asks, "See this? You call that not bad

The denials have left people angry and bitter. Workers see
colleagues with lung cancer getting paid, while they,
diagnosed with other types, are not. They tell tales of
employees stationed in buildings far from the bar mill
receiving checks, all because they have lung or kidney cancer.

"It's wrong," says Walker, who has filed three claims, all
denied. "It's unjust, and the government should own up to it."

To that end, the families have formed two groups—the
Bethlehem Steel Radiation Victims and Survivors, and the
Bethlehem Steel Claimants Action Group— numbering some 300
members in total. They've taken their fight public,
protesting outside government offices, writing letters, and
making themselves a general pain for bureaucrats. Last year
they scored big when a 199-page audit found serious flaws in
NIOSH's system for evaluating their claims.

NIOSH's Elliott admits the audit has forced the agency to
review its ways. But he also insists the process is working.
"We've built a solid method," he argues, adding that none of
the 300-plus claims denied have been overturned on appeal.
"We're confident that we are not missing any claimant who
really deserves to be compensated."

Clinton's office has heard that line before, repeatedly,
since the senator first took up this crusade in 2003. She
got involved after her Buffalo staff began fielding calls
from constituents and she sent an aide to the Bethlehem
claimants' meetings. In December of that year she met them
herself at a special gathering in Hamburg.

There, she listened to 50 or so people recounting their
experiences. People like Theresa Sweeney, of Lackawanna,
whose husband died of pancreatic cancer, and who explained
the trouble she'd endured when administrators challenged the
legitimacy of her 30-year marriage. Or Cindy Mellody, of
South Buffalo, whose dad died of "probable lung carcinoma,"
and who told of the "huge injustice" of having her claim
denied. Her father served in World War II, got captured,
escaped, and hid in the jungle for two years; he returned to
New York only to get a job at a plant where the government
exposed him to uranium.

"These stories hit you up front," says the senator's western
New York regional director. The staffer says the senator was
so outraged she charged the Buffalo office with documenting
as many cases as possible. It now has a stack of about 200.

Early on, Clinton tried pressuring agency heads to fix
problems. In May 2003, for example, she pushed for a
provision calling for NIOSH and the Labor Department to file
a report with Congress, explaining the delays in processing
claims at Bethlehem, as well as other New York facilities.
The measure passed; the report has yet to be drafted.

Then came the letters. In December 2003, she wrote to
President Bush, calling on him to implement long-ignored
legal requirements that would help Bethlehem claimants. "The
longer the Administration delays," she wrote, the "more
workers will die without having their claim resolved."
Twelve months later, she issued a statement demanding NIOSH
review its methods. The NIOSH audit, she said, "clearly
indicates that claims that have been denied need to be

Last January, she wrote to the Labor Department, along with
Senator Chuck Schumer and western New York representatives,
demanding that Labor officials search harder for uranium
records at Bethlehem.

"She has been dogged in her oversight," says Richard Miller
of the Government Accountability Project in Washington,
D.C., which tracks the program. "It's not simply say one
thing and do another with her."

These days, Clinton has come to believe that the program is
broken, her staff says, and that legislation is the only way
to fix it. She's set to introduce a bill that would make it
easier for Bethlehem claimants to get paid. The measure
would set minimum standards for records needed to evaluate
claims. Under the bill, employees who did nuclear-weapons
work at plants without such records—as is the case at
Bethlehem—would join a "special exposure cohort."

That's a term in the original law, reserved for workers from
facilities where the government lacks basic information and
thus cannot reconstruct dosages. In effect, the bill would
order the government to presume that workers in this status
got cancer from radiation exposure and to pay them.

Because the measure mandates spending, Clinton's staff says,
it won't be attractive during a time of huge deficits and
tax cuts.

U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, of Niagara Falls, will
co-sponsor a House companion bill to Clinton's legislation,
and she predicts resistance. Yet Slaughter, who has worked
on this issue since the mid '90s, sees two advantages. For
one, its proposals amount to what she calls "basic decency."
For another, Hillary Clinton is on it. As she explains, "I
don't know what we'd do without her, because she performs."

For now, all the Bethlehem families can do is wait. Many,
like Dorothy Jaworski of West Seneca, see the senator's bill
as the only source of hope, the only way they'll be able to
collect what they deserve. Jaworski got a December 2003
letter from the Labor Department announcing she qualified
for the $150,000 because her late husband "had sustained
leukemia and pancreatic cancer in the performance of his
duty," only to have the offer rescinded, an apparent
"mistake," five months later.

If it weren't for Senator Clinton, Jaworski says, "this
whole issue would be dead." No matter what happens to the
bill, she appreciates the senator standing up for her. She
believes she'd have a check in hand if Hillary Clinton were
in charge. "With Hillary on our side," Jaworski says, "I
have faith."

--- end 2 of 2 articles ---

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Sandia completes depleted uranium study
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 10:31:42 -0700
From: James Salsman <james at bovik.org>
To: radsafe at radlab.nl,  du-list at yahoogroups.com
CC: bobcherry at cox.net,  acmarsh at sandia.gov

Bob Cherry asks about this Sandia National Laboratory study:


Most telling is perhaps the quote, "This assessment should not
be interpreted to be a general validation of the SNL National
Securities Studies Department methodology for studying the
consequences of terrorist use of radiological dispersal devices."
In other words, it's not good enough to correctly predict the
effects of uranium combustion weapons.  By the way, did anyone
notice how Jose Padilla is now charged with plotting to blow up
high-density housing with "natural gas" instead of uranium?  UO3
gas is both natural and artificial.

I agree that Table ES-1 on page 12 indicates a 24% increase in
fatal cancer risk and an 8% increase in birth defects, and
ignores chemical toxicity by reporting radiological risk only.
Also, "veterans" is apparently used to mean "all veterans,"
instead of "exposed veterans," as far as I can tell.  Please let
me know if I am wrong about that.  Uranium causes 1e+6 more DNA
damage from chemical toxicity than from its radiological hazard.
Miller, et al., J Inorg Biochem, vol. 91, no. 1 (2002), pp.
246-252:  http://www.bovik.org/du/Miller-DNA-damage.pdf
Therefore, if only 5% of veterans were exposed, then the risk
ratios for the exposed are 4.8e+6 for fatal cancer, and 1.6e+6
for birth defects, above the radiological risks reported.

However, I can not agree with the study because it is self-
contradictory.  In earlier sections in section 1.2 on scope, it
claims to include complete evaluation of both radiological and
nonradiological hazards, but Section 5.2 on p. 72, "Other Heavy
Metal Effects," reads:

 > Some evidence has been reported for the possibility of other
 > chemical effects associated with uranium internalization (see
 > Appendix D).... Among the tested veterans, McDiarmid’s team
 > observed a statistically lower score in [a] neurocognitive
 > test for veterans with high uranium concentrations in their
 > urine....
 > Veteran, animal, and in vitro testing suggests that a few
 > other chemically induced health effects are possible, such
 > as reproductive effects and chemically induced cancers....

A few?  There are over 30 categories of congenital malformation.

 > Uranium is also deposited in the kidney, liver, lymph  nodes,
 > and other organs in small quantities....

-- ignoring testes and gonocyte contamination --

 > Some evidence has been reported for other chemical effects
 > associated  with uranium internalization. In vitro studies suggest
 > that DU can  induce malignant transformations with frequencies
 > similar to those  observed with the nonradioactive heavy metal
 > carcinogens, nickel and  lead. Studies by Benson et al. on female
 > rats with DU implants have  shown that uranium can cross the
 > placental  barrier....

So, female reproductive toxicities are considered, but not male?

 > Furthermore, no excess health effects  of any type have been
 > observed  from epidemiological studies for uranium workers [12].

No excess health effects of any type?  [D-12] is A. Bordujenko,
'Military Medical Aspects of Depleted Uranium Munitions,' ADF
Health, vol. 3 (September 2002.)  Way out of date!  Several
excess health effects have been observed in epidemiological
studies of uranium workers.

 > The incremental risk of DU-induced birth defects for civilians
 > is estimated by multiplying the equivalent dose to the gonads
 > by 0.013 per person-Sv.

"0.013" should be "1e+6".  No wonder they used radiological risk
and not chemical risk in the executive summary.

Therefore, the risk ratios are 4.8e+6 for fatal cancer, and
1.6e+6 for birth defects among the exposed.  Is that right?

James Salsman

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