Committee approves free screening for exposure to uranium by members of the military

www.katc.com/Global/story.asp?S=3274668

BATON ROUGE, La. A House committee decided today that members of the military or veterans who believe they were at risk for exposure to depleted uranium, a radioactive material that is used in nuclear weapons, should be able to get a free health screening test.

A bill by Representative Juan LaFonta of New Orleans would establish the right to the screening test. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously sent the measure to the full House for debate. LaFonta was accompanied by two veterans for the committee hearing.

The U-S Department of Veterans Affairs would cover the 170 dollar cost per test.

Depleted-uranium test proposed
Louisiana Panel supports testing veterans

By MARK BALLARD
mballard@theadvocate.com
Capitol news bureau April 29, 2005

www.2theadvocate.com/stories/042905/pol_testing001.shtml

A House panel endorsed legislation Thursday that would
require Louisiana veterans returning from Iraq to be tested
for depleted uranium exposure, which some experts say they
think is a primary cause of Gulf War syndrome.

House Bill 570 would allow any Louisiana soldier who
believes he or she was exposed to depleted uranium in a
combat zone to get a more aggressive test than is offered by
the military, said Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, the
measure’s sponsor.

The wording of the proposed law does not specifically spell
out who would give or pay for the test.

But LaFonta said the measure would give Louisiana soldiers
more leverage to demand the tests from the federal Veterans
Administration.

After the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee,
LaFonta acknowledged that a state law would have little
effect on the federal agency.

But the legislation’s chief witness, Robert Smith of New
Orleans, said the legislation would allow Gov. Kathleen
Blanco to order the state’s military department chief, Maj.
Gen. Bennett Landreneau, to include the more-expansive
testing as part of its annual funding request to the U.S.
Department of Defense.

Landreneau’s press aides did not return three calls seeking
comment.

Depleted uranium is used nuclear power plant fuel. Because
the metal is very dense, the military uses it in bullets,
bombs and missiles to help penetrate armor protection.

It also is used as counter-weights in fighter jets and as
protective armor on Abrams tanks.

The United Nations World Health Organization found that very
low radiation can still harm people who inhale dust, drink
water or eat food that had been contaminated.

“It looks more and more like what’s causing Gulf War
syndrome, primarily, is depleted uranium exposure,” said
Smith, a retired Green Beret who has worked helping injured
veterans rejoin civilian society.

Gulf War syndrome is a constellation of symptoms, such as
weak joints, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath,
nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, sleep disturbances and
unusually frequent urination.

“You don’t get those symptoms in 20-year-olds,” said Joyce
Riley of Versailles, Mo. The former Air Force captain is
spokeswoman for the American Gulf War Veterans Association.

“I’m getting calls all day long from parents who are asking
me, ‘Why is my child sick?’ ” Riley said Wednesday.
“Depleted uranium is one of the reasons these troops are
coming home sick.”

Riley said that, while the U.S. Department of Defense
screens for depleted uranium, it refuses to do adequate tests.

Telephone inquiries for comment to the Department of Defense
were not returned.

A spokesman with the Veterans Administration said the agency
does not comment on pending legislation.

Members of the Louisiana House Committee on Judiciary asked
few questions of Smith and LaFonta.

One member, Rep. Mike Powell, R-Shreveport, gave a short
speech commending veterans and asked for the privilege of
making the motion to refer the bill favorably.

But before that motion could be made, LaFonta was asked to
explain why the bill’s financial note indicates that the
state would pay for those tests if the Veterans
Administration finds that a test is not warranted.

LaFonta said that was a mistake. The legislation would not
cost the state anything because the Veterans Administration
would handle the testing, he said. The state’s Military
Department estimated the cost of the tests at $170 each.

LaFonta said at least four other states are considering
filing a similar bill. Legislative committees of the
Connecticut General Assembly approved similar legislation
earlier this month.

The Louisiana bill now goes to the full House for
consideration.
———
Notes and quotes from the Louisiana Legislature

4/28/2005, 3:59 p.m. CT
The Associated Press????? ?????

www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-15/111471712689320.xml&storylist=louisiana

Members of the military or veterans who believe they were at
risk for exposure to depleted uranium, a radioactive
material that is used in nuclear weapons, should be able to
get a free health screening test, a House committee decided
Thursday.

A bill (House Bill 570) by Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans,
would establish the right to the screening test. The House
Judiciary Committee unanimously sent the measure to the full
House for debate. LaFonta was accompanied by two veterans
for the committee hearing.

“Everybody’s there for the parade when veterans come home,”
but people need to pay attention to taking care of any
afflictions they may have from their service, said Rep. Mike
Powell, R-Shreveport.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would cover the $170
cost per test, according to LaFonta.