Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz expressed confidence that today’s roundtable held by the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs would highlight the need to enact legislation Assemblyman Dinowitz has authored (A9116/S6964) to assist veterans who may have been exposed to depleted uranium (DU) during their military service. The legislation aims to ensure that military personnel and veterans get the best screening and treatment for exposure to hazardous materials, particularly DU. Assemblyman Dinowitz urged both houses to pass this important legislation. It’s sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Thomas Morahan.
Depleted uranium was widely used for the first time during the Gulf War to make anti-tank munitions and armor-plating for Abrams tanks. It is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process and is used in munitions and armor because of its incredibly high density. Exposure to depleted uranium becomes a health concern when it enters the body. The greatest concern for soldiers has been when they are struck by shrapnel containing uranium or when they inhale uranium particles released by the combustion of depleted uranium weapons.
The health effects of radiation exposure due to contact with depleted uranium can be devastating. Symptoms range from joint pains, muscle aches and fatigue to birth defects and chronic illnesses resulting in death. Assemblyman Dinowitz’ bill directs the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs to aid any soldier or veteran in obtaining federal treatment services to screen for exposure to hazardous materials, particularly depleted uranium. Screening for radiation or chemical exposure would not only result in earlier diagnoses but would also help prevent misdiagnoses. In addition, when soldiers are given the wrong medication the side-effects could exacerbate an existing illness.
Further, the bill would establish a task force on depleted uranium to study the health effects of the exposure to hazardous materials, including, but not limited to, depleted uranium, as they relate to military service. The task force would also set up a health registry for veterans who may have been exposed since the Gulf War; develop a plan to outreach to and follow-up on exposed military personnel; and prepare a report on the effects of depleted uranium for service members and their families. The report shall include an assessment of the feasibility and cost of adding pre-deployment training concerning potential exposure to depleted uranium and other toxic chemical substances and the precautions recommended under combat and non-combat conditions while in a combat zone.
Assemblyman Dinowitz stated, “The young men and women who serve our country are being exposed to materials that may be deadly. We have a moral obligation to identify the affected veterans and provide them with the best available medical care. I believe this is the least we can do to show our appreciation to the men and women who fight for our freedom. Just as we should support our service men and women while they are overseas, we should also support them when they return home.”