Gulf War Syndrome! DUh!

On September 7, the US Institute of Medicine announced that, despite a comprehensive investigation, it was unable to identify a "single cause" for the Gulf War Syndrome that plagues 90,000 veterans.

Meanwhile, a little-noticed report in the September 3 London Sunday Times reveals that some Gulf War illnesses have been linked to exposure to depleted uranium (DU), a by-product of nuclear reactor waste used to make artillery shells and missiles.

Asaf Durakovic is a professor of nuclear medicine at Georgetown University and former head of nuclear medicine at the US Army's veterans' affairs facility in Delaware. Ten years after the Gulf War, Durakovic tested 17 vets and found that 70 percent of them had life-threatening levels of DU in their blood and bones.

In September, Durakovic told a meeting of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine that "tens of thousands" of British and US troops are dying after inhaling fine particles of radioactive dust released by the explosion of more than 700,000 DU shells fired during the war.

According to the Times, Durakovic's theory explains "for the first time why medical orderlies and mechanics are the principal victims of Gulf war syndrome." Medics "cut off the clothes of Iraqi casualties in field hospitals," while British Army engineers removed Iraqi tanks hit by DU shells.

Durakovic doesn't claim that DU is the sole cause of all Gulf War symptoms, but he does believe it is the leading factor.

Britain and the US still refuse to test war vets for DU. Durakovic's hope is that these findings will help convince US and British officials that "by continuing to use this ammunition, they are effectively poisoning their own soldiers."

The Times reports that Durakovic left the US "because he was told his life was in danger if he continued his research."

© Earth Island Journal, Winter 2000-2001