Will Proposed Army Studies on DU Tell Us What We Need to Know?

Posted by Miwa at Mar 13, 2009 07:09 PM |

Excerpt from Letter to the U.S. Army from Michael Reimer in regards to Depleted Uranium (DU) studies at Schofield Barracks, on Oahu, and Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), on Hawaii:

Colonel Howard Killian, Deputy Director
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
Pacific Region
132 Yamanaga Street
Fort Shafter, Hawaii 96858-5520

Dear Colonel Killian:

I have had an opportunity to review the reports released from DU studies at Schofield Barracks and Pohakuloa Training Area. I also spoke with Dr. Lorrin Pang, some members of the Community Advisory Group, and met contractor Dr. Jeff Morrow.

I agree with your statement that you mentioned in a previous communication we had, and that is to let the science speak.

In that light, I am particularly concerned that what is proposed by the U.S. Army for future studies at PTA will fall far short of providing the best information possible at this time, or for that matter, provide any information that can be used to develop a real rather than a speculative risk assessment.

DU is an issue of evolving study results and knowledge. There are some points that are immutable fact. We know that DU is present at Schofield and Pohakuloa. As I recall, the Army does not dispute the point of potential health risk. Therefore, we must take the best information we obtain today and use it to address the concerns about the level of health risks from potential exposure to DU.

The citizens of the Big Island are concerned. This is a natural, often fearful, reaction anytime the word radiation is mentioned in our society. Yet, we live in a world with ubiquitous and unavoidable natural radiation, from cosmic rays to the foodstuffs that provide our sustenance. According to the position of the U.S. EPA, any and all ionizing radiation has the potential of causing cancer. Thus, there has to be a reasoned balance between unavoidable exposure and elective exposure.

The past use of DU on the Big Island places exposure to that type of radioactive material in the “unavoidable exposure” category. This brings forth the question then of how much additional risk does it pose to the people of the Big Island including the military personnel stationed and working at Pohakuloa.

I believe that with adequate study, this question can be answered with reasonable assurance. As I mentioned, I do not believe the currently planned study has the capacity to answer that question. The reason for my belief is that the study design is to measure total uranium and to show that it is below standards set by World Agencies for regulated exposures. This may present itself as a feel-good approach, but it is unfortunately misleading even with the rudimentary information we have today about the form and occurrence of uranium in the natural environment. In other words, the study as currently planned still leaves the door wide open on determining excess health risks, if any.

Michael Reimer, Ph.D., geologist, retired
Kona Hawaii, Hawaii

Mahalo to Shannon for the tip. shannonkona@gmail.com

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