[ RadSafe ] RE: uranium in the gulf war

James Salsman james at bovik.org
Tue Jun 27 13:41:17 CDT 2006

Steven Dapra writes:

(A lengthy question about whether a memo from Los Alamos
to those studying depleted uranium use in the Gulf War, stating
that if the weapons were found to be effective, "we should
assure their future ... through Service/DoD proponency," actually
represents, "an active, semi-coordinated campaign ... to do
public relations work in support of depleted uranium weaponry.")
People can read what is plainly written in that memo.

> Was there any reason to test Agent Orange for carcinogens 
> and teratogens in the early 1970s?

Yes, I think there was, and of course there was, in hindsight.
When you order a huge volume of a synthetic chemical to which
people are going to be exposed from the lowest bidder, who
would argue that it isn't a good idea to double-check the quality
control for purity and toxins?  If only to make sure you got what
you ordered, shouldn't you check for contaminants?

> When was it discovered that Agent Orange contained these substances? 

Not soon enough.

> As far as that goes, has it ever been conclusively shown that
> Agent Orange had any adverse effects on the servicemen who were
> exposed to it? 

Yes, there was a huge amount of dioxin in the remaining barrels,
and the court verdicts that it was responsible for the excess
cancers and birth defects has withstood their appeals.

> With respect to inhalation risks, haven’t uranium miners and
> mill workers been studied to the point of surfeit?

Miners and mill workers don't burn uranium, and so they don't
inhale much uranyl oxides, and certainly no uranyl oxide gas.
The uranium(IV) dioxide in ore dusts they are exposed to is not
soluble, mostly excreted, and not very toxic at all in comparison.

> More Salsman:  “there are now a bunch of state governments which 
> mandate urine isotope ratio tests, which I think are completely 
> flawed.”  Why do you think the tests are flawed, and what are your 
> qualifications for making this claim? 

Because I know how to read, and nobody has yet answered by claim
that the uranyl oxide gas produced in uranium fires would not show
up in a urine isotope ratio test.  Colonel Daxon said that the
15 points I sent him (also below) were "accurate but misleading"
and that "it would take volumes to put them in context," whatever
that is supposed to mean.  So, I must conclude that Colonel Daxon
is unable to find any evidence against point # 11, and if he is
not, then I doubt anyone can.  Nobody else has, either.

>          Still more Salsman:  “Of all the
> symptoms of Gulf War illness, an increase in the cancer rate has
> never been confirmed by medical studies except very recently
> with respect to brain cancer deaths:
> http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/255812_gulfvets16.html”
>          The Seattle Post-Intelligencer article says, “Brain cancer deaths 
> . . . now are recognized by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments as 
> potentially connected to service during the Persian Gulf War.”  POTENTIALLY 
> CONNECTED  Note too that Salsman offers no primary source material to 
> support this.

That's because I don't have any primary source material for that
claim; it was completely new to me in the Seattle P.-I. story.
But I can give you a dozen reports, e.g., at least ten from Dr.
Melissa McDairmid's group alone, which claim no increase in cancer
incidence rates in uranium-exposed Gulf War veterans.  There just
isn't any confirmation of increased cancer rates (plenty of claims
of that, though.)

>      Salsman’s ATSDR report about nerve and mustard gas 
> (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp49-c3.pdf) is a 98 page report that 
> is well-larded with qualifiers.  I read a small portion of it and it says 
> two rat studies reported no fetal toxicity or gross teratogenic effects, 
> and no “excess fetal abnormalities.”  (See p. 43; section

That's my point -- tiny teratogenic effects, but look at the
section on cancer, and the effect is much larger.  If the
problems were caused by nerve or mustard gas, there would have
been a lot of cancers and fewer relative birth defect increases.

>  Salsman also invokes a study by Kang, et al. (2001) ("Pregnancy 
> outcomes among US Gulf war veterans: a population-based survey of
> 30,000 veterans;” Annals of Epidemiology, 2001, Volume 11, pp. 504-­511).
> I have a copy of this study and re-read it this afternoon.  It is true that 
> Dr. Kang and his colleagues reported a near-doubling of birth defect risk 
> in male veterans' offspring and a near-tripling in female veterans' 
> offspring.  This was a self-reported study that was conducted via 
> mailed-out questionnaires with telephone follow-up.  The study authors made 
> some adjustments to compensate for the self-reporting, however in the 
> conclusions to their de facto Abstract, they say their observation of 
> increased birth defects among children of Gulf War veterans “needs to be 
> confirmed by a review of medical records to rule out possible reporting bias.”

I agree with that.

James Salsman

P.S.  The 15 points referred to above:

 >> These all are well-supported, and as-yet undisputed facts:
 >> 1.  Uranium combustion from munitions fires such as those
 >> from 30mm DU rounds occurs above 2500 Kelvin and directly
 >> produces uranium dioxide (UO2) and trioxide (UO3) gas.
 >> 2.  Much of both of the uranium oxide gases condense into
 >> particulate aerosol and dust solids.
 >> 3.  When UO3 gas condenses, it decomposes into U3O8, which
 >> comprises 75% of solid uranium combustion product.  (UO2
 >> particulates comprise the remainder.)
 >> 4.  Some of the UO3 gas escapes into the air, before it can
 >> condense with other UO3 molecules to form U3O8.
 >> 5.  Some of the UO3 plates out on surfaces, e.g., as
 >> detected in the swabs collected by Salbu et al. (2005).
 >> 6.  Nobody has ever measured the gas products of uranium
 >> combustion.  So far, only the solid combustion products have
 >> been measured.
 >> 7.  UO3 gas inhalation and U3O8 particulate inhalation will
 >> both lead to uranyl ion absorption in the bloodstream.
 >> 8.  Uranyl absorption from UO3 gas inhalation is immediate,
 >> while absorption from U3O8 particles is much slower, because
 >> U3O8 is partially soluble and takes months for half of it to
 >> dissolve in the lungs.
 >> 9.  The particulate aerosols diffuse through the air at a
 >> different rate than UO3 gas.  Therefore, UO3 gas exposure
 >> will not always occur simultaneously with particulate oxide
 >> exposure.
 >> 10.  Uranyl ions absorbed by cells from the bloodstream
 >> soon become undetectable in the urine, as renal elimination
 >> occurs with a half-time of less than two weeks.
 >> 11.  Since UO3 gas may be encountered without particulates,
 >> urine isotope ratio studies which depend on detecting
 >> uranium from slowly dissolving uranium oxide particles do
 >> not necessarily indicate uranium combustion product
 >> inhalation exposure, or the extent of uranyl poisoning.
 >> 12.  The toxicological profile of uranyl poisoning is
 >> dependent on elimination effects, such that a small dose
 >> occurring quickly (such as from UO3 gas) will have a
 >> different physiological effect than from a larger dose
 >> occurring over a longer a period of time (such as from U3O8
 >> particle dissolution in the lungs.)
 >> 13.  All uranyl poisoning is genotoxic and teratogenic,
 >> increasing the probability of chromosome aberrations in
 >> white blood cells and birth defects in children.
 >> 14.  Karyotyping measurements of chromosome aberrations will
 >> proportionally reflect uranyl exposure, in addition to other
 >> genetic damage.
 >> 15.  Empirical measurement of the amount of UO3 gas produced
 >> by uranium combustion is necessary for determining the proper
 >> medical response to uranium combustion product exposure.
 >> For those items with which you do disagree, please let me know
 >> why.  Based on the content of your earlier messages, where
 >> exactly we disagree is currently a mystery to me.  Thank you.
 >> Sincerely,
 >> James Salsman

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