DU News From the US
On the National Level: By law, the U.S. Government is now required to do a comprehensive study on health effects of exposure to depleted uranium. In October President Bush signed into law the Department of Defense Authorization Bill which contains an amendment requiring such a study to be done and to be completed within one year.
The amendment was introduced by Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Washington State) in the U.S. House of Representatives and by Senator Maria Cantwell in the U.S. Senate. It passed unanimously by a voice vote in the House. It succeeded in remaining in the Bill throughout the resolution of differences between the House and Senate bills by the House/Senate Conference Committee.
Congressman McDermott said, “If DU poses no danger, we need to prove it. If DU harms our soldiers, we need to know it. We owe our soldiers a full measure of the truth, wherever that leads us.”1
On the State Level: In New York State, a bill requiring the testing of National Guardsmen and Women for exposure to DU passed both Houses. However, it seems that the Republican-dominated Senate stalled on the bill and as of late October, it had not been sent to the Governor to be signed.
Similar legislation in Massachusetts did not make it to the state House this year but will be re-introduced early next year. At the time of writing, Louisiana and Connecticut are the only states that have passed this legislation.
On the Local Level: Grassroots Actions for Peace based in Concord, Mass. collected 216 signatures for the ICBUW petition banning uranium weapons in honour of the International Day of Action in early November. Five members of Grassroots canvassed in five different cities and towns. The author found that people, especially in Somerville and Cambridge were far more aware of DU weapons and possible harm to human health and the environment than in 2005.
During the spring and summer of 2006, the Christian Peacemaker Teams of Northern Indiana (CPTNI) met with activists in Cumberland, Maryland near an Alliant Tech facility – an industrial assembly site where DU weapons are put together that have been manufactured at Aerojet Ordnance in Jonesboro, Tennessee. (Propellant is added at a facility in Radford, Virginia). Members of CPTNI met with activists at both sites.
In November, members of CPTNI went to Tennessee where they held public vigils with local supporters and did a major action in front of Aerojet at both opening and closing times. They also met with local activists opposed to the manufacture of DU shells. They learned that Aerojet employees cannot talk to anyone about their jobs on pain of losing their jobs or facing a law suit.
On November 13, CPTNI took part in a forum at Frostburg College in Rocket Center, Virginia which is close to a facility of Alliant Tech. They also held a vigil near the Alliant Tech plant. CPTNI is a new member of ICBUW and we welcome them.
Developments on the DU issue have been mostly on the positive side in the last few months although much more work needs to be done.
1. “President Signs Legislation Containing Rep. McDermott’s DU Study: Possible Adverse Health Effects on Soldiers from Depleted Uranium To Be Studied”, October 20, 2006, can be found at www.house.gov/mcdermott/pr061020.shtml .