Iraq veterans joined by human rights lawyers filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Thursday with the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department over its use of depleted uranium during the Iraq War.
“Depleted uranium is one example of the toxic legacy left by our wars in Iraq,” said Jeena Shah, attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the group that filed the FOIA request on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The request seeks the firing coordinates of weapons used in Iraq that contained depleted uranium. Depleted uranium, which is radioactive and doesn’t diminish in toxicity for 4.5 billion years, is a byproduct of enriched uranium from the nuclear power industry — and is used in armor-piercing weapons. When it hits a target, fragments burn and vaporize into a fine dust. The dust is toxic and when inhaled can be absorbed by the body to cause chemical poisoning and radiation poisoning.
The United Nations classifies depleted uranium ammunition as illegal “Weapons of Mass Destruction” because of their long-term impact on the land over which they are used and the long-term health problems they cause when people are exposed to them.
The symptoms of DU exposure include respiratory problems, chronic fatigue, neurological symptoms, menstrual disorders and kidney problems, according to IVAW.
“Veterans who served in Iraq are suffering side effects, while many Iraqis still live surrounded by piles of metal debris left over from the war and with soil and groundwater potentially contaminated by depleted uranium. The only way to deal with its effects and to ensure it is cleaned up is to have a full accounting of where weapons … were deployed,” said Shah.
Iraqi citizens are experiencing high rates of cancer and birth defects, and Iraq veterans are reporting unexplained illnesses.
“Veterans have been fighting for decades to have our injuries recognized by the U.S. government — from Agent Orange to Military Sexual Trauma. We are promised healthcare in return for our service, and deserve to know if we’ve been exposed to depleted uranium. This is an important matter of health for over two million veterans, for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing the worst of the toxic legacy of war,” said Maggie Martin, organizing director of IVAW.
A report by PAX, a Netherlands-based group, says that, during the Iraq War, the U.S. military used the largest amount of depleted uranium munitions of all areas of conflict and test sites, estimating that to be at least 400 metric tons.
A United Nations Environmental Program has estimated up to five times that amount based on satellite imagery.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons after reviewing 50 peer-reviewed studies on depleted uranium said the DU is a genotoxic agent, known to be involved in the development of cancer and potentially response for genetic damage.
Iraq and other U.N. member states have called for the banning of depleted uranium and will be up for discussion at the U.N. in October.
This article originally appeared on Latin Post at http://www.latinpost.com/articles/22279/20140925/iraq-veterans-human-rights-attorneys-seek-information-toxic-weapons-used.htm.