Author Topic: Weird Science - DU Testing  (Read 1932 times)

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Weird Science - DU Testing
« on: April 14, 2012, 11:14:57 AM »
Weird science

By Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard
Updated 11 hours ago


Elliot Ferguson The Whig-Standard Veterans Derrick Zimmerman, left, and Eric Rebiere are concerned local veterans who recently provided detailed personal information and a urine sample to woman from the United States may have made themselves vulnerable to identity theft.

Check the pictures and video http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3533431

For nine months on a NATO policing mission in 1999, Eric Rebiere worried about what was carried on the wind.

During a deployment to Kosovo, Rebiere was stationed in a building next to the hollowed-out shell of a former Serbian police station.

“It was four or five storeys high. It had been taken out by one of these guided munitions from the NATO bombings,” Rebiere said. “It was obvious from the damage that the bomb had penetrated through two stories before exploding.

“I was always concerned about DU because the wind was always blowing our way and we had our windows open.”

Depleted uranium (DU) is a radioactive material contained in shells and bombs first used in the Gulf War in 1991. The government plays down any risk to soldiers from the substance, but it’s still considered one of the possible causes of unexplained illnesses, including cancer, that have affected many combat veterans of the Gulf War and subsequent conflicts.

So when an American nurse arrived in Kingston recently, offering to test veterans for depleted uranium poisoning, it got the attention of local veterans — and raised the suspicions of a few.

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Depleted uranium is a waste byproduct of the uranium enrichment process in power plants and the production of nuclear weapons.

It is one of the densest substances on earth, 1.7 times more dense than lead, and is used as a counterweight in aircraft, racing cars and yachts.

It is also used in armour-piercing shells and bombs designed to penetrate targets before detonating.

According to Health Canada, 290 tonnes of depleted-uranium weapons were used in the Gulf War, and 10 tonnes were used in 1994-95 in Bosnia and in 1999 in Kosovo.

When a depleted uranium round explodes, some of the material is expelled into the air. These particles can be inhaled or swallowed by people in the vicinity following the explosion.

Depleted uranium is suspected of potentially causing cancers, birth defects, lung disease and nervous system disorders.

Veterans Affairs Canada has downplayed the medical effects of depleted uranium. It says scientific research has shown the risk of developing health problems from exposure to depleted uranium during military service is minimal.

According to a United Nations Environmental Program report, depleted uranium contamination was localized to within a “few tens of metres around impact sites” but the World Health Organization has stated that, over time, levels of depleted uranium would be dispersed over a wider area, and would remain toxic for years.

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Eric Rebiere hasn’t noticed any ill effects from his exposure to depleted uranium, but the retired RCMP constable and fellow veteran Derrick Zimmerman have concerns about the motivations of an unusual visitor to the city.

Linda K. May, a businesswoman claiming to be affiliated with the University of Illinois, was in Kingston last month, collecting urine samples from veterans, saying she was going to test them for evidence of depleted uranium.

Rebiere was among more than a dozen former soldiers invited by another Kingston veteran, Dan Slack, to provide a urine sample. The samples were collected in mason jars with the caps sealed using duct tape, Rebiere said.

He said he asked May if there was any treatment for DU poisoning, having read on the Internet about “homeopathic” treatments that could extract DU from the body, and she assured him one existed. She did not go into further detail, he said.

In addition to the samples, May took the veterans’ personal information, including their addresses, phone numbers, signatures and dates of birth. She also took a photo of each veteran.

Although skeptical, Rebiere provided a sample in a mason jar. Along with his urine, Rebiere gave May his information, including his date of birth, which he was told would be used as an identification code.

“I was driving home and then I started thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my God. She has my photo, my date of birth, my name, my signature even, my address and everything,’ ” he said in an interview with the Whig-Standard. “What more do you need to steal somebody’s identity?”

Rebiere returned to the house and retrieved his sample and the form he filled out. But he said May could have emailed his information and photo to someone else, and as a precaution he has since put a watch on his credit and bank accounts for any unusual activity.

Rebiere said May told him she was conducting the testing in co-operation with the University of Illinois’s Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering.

Dr. Barclay Jones, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, said he knows who May is, but said she is not affiliated with the department.

“I am cognizant of her, but she is not involved directly with the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering,” Jones said. “I understand what her goals and that are, but the department here is not involved in that.”

Zimmerman, who was also asked to provide a urine sample, said he was suspicious from the start.

“My phone call was, ‘Come on over and pee in a mason jar,’ which struck me as odd,” said Zimmerman, who was stationed in Bahrain during the first Gulf War and also served in the NATO mission in the former Yugoslavia.

“(Dan Slack) went on to explain that because I served in the Gulf and I served in Croatia, I likely was exposed to depleted uranium and that would explain why I don’t feel well.”

Zimmerman has worked previously in a medical lab, and is familiar with how samples are collected. He said he decided within a few minutes to decline the invitation.

“It can’t be any more transparent than this,” Zimmerman said. “It’s almost laughable, when you look at it. But again, it’s not these veterans’ faults that have fallen for it, because they are sick, they are not well, they are desperate. They are reaching out.”

Efforts to interview May by telephone and email have been unsuccessful. The Whig-Standard called a cellphone number provided by one of her associates. When a reporter identified himself and explained the reason for the call, the woman who answered the phone said May was not available, took a message and said May would return the call. No return call has been received.

Joe Hueglin of Niagara Falls, who described himself as May’s “Canadian connection,” said her work is an important step toward helping sick veterans. May contacted Hueglin, who was a Member of Parliament from 1972 to 1974, through his political news blog.

Hueglin told the Whig-Standard that May’s testing efforts are important in proving the link between depleted uranium and illnesses in veterans. He said May’s tests could provide ill veterans with the documentation they need to pursue the federal government for compensation for their ailments.

Michael L. Blais, founder and president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, said May contacted the organization last year, but the agency is not working with her.

“She has been very persistent, however, and over the months, has drawn some supporters in Canada that believe that her test is legitimate and the issues of DU that Canadian veterans are confronting can be resolved through a simple urine test,” Blais wrote in an email to the Whig-Standard.

Blais said he remains skeptical.

Hueglin said May collected 15 urine samples during her visit to Kingston.

Slack, the veteran who organized the Kingston visit, is convinced May is a legitimate researcher.

“I have done a lot of research in the last 12 years and I know what people are going through,” Slack said.

He added he knows May’s testing project is controversial, but said he has researched her background on the Internet and is convinced she is legitimate.

“Yes, there is a chance this could go south,” he said. “If we live in a world of fear we will accomplish nothing.”

Slack said the unwillingness of governments to acknowledge any link between depleted uranium and illnesses suffered by veterans and their families has created a situation in which vets are desperate for help.

Slack said the veterans who provided samples were told that if they had any concerns about the security of their information they could place a fraud watch on their accounts.

Slack said May stayed at his house for a week in mid-March while she collected the urine samples. He said that, during the time she was his houseguest, they did not discuss the details of her testing procedure.

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Urine testing can indeed reveal the presence of depleted uranium, but according to Health Canada, approximately 90 grams of uranium exists naturally in the body, most of it found in the skeleton, liver and kidneys.

A simple urine test would only show the total amount of uranium in the body. Determining if a person has been exposed to depleted uranium requires testing of urine or hair samples with “inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry,” according to Dr. Kathleen Kerr of the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine. This would show the quantity and ratio of different uranium isotopes. Mass spectrometers are typically used in medical, environmental and industrial labs and usually cost at least $100,000. “I’m not aware of any labs outside the military offering this test,” said Kerr, “ but perhaps there are.”

According to her Facebook profile, May graduated from nursing program at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1977. Ten years later, she graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor of science. In 1990, she graduated from the Lakeview College of Nursing.

She is the president and CEO of a company called Warbler of Illinois.

An Internet search for “Linda K. May” turns up a number of articles published in blogs, in the alternative press, and on websites aimed at military veterans. They detail her involvement with U.S. veterans suffering the effects of Agent Orange and DU poisoning. The reports say she offered to sell veterans kits and lab tests to detect the chemicals. She has also reportedly been marketing kits to test for radiation poisoning.

The Whig-Standard has not found anyone in Kingston who was asked for money.

In 2009, May presented herself as a health and safety expert when a school in Greensboro, N.C., was found to be contaminated with mold. At the time, May told the Greensboro News-Record newspaper that she was a former municipal, state and federal health department inspector.

She said the school was so badly contaminated that it should be closed permanently, but repairs were made to the school and students have since returned to classes there.

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The veterans’ concerns were enough to convince Kingston Police to investigate. They say that May has done nothing illegal.

“It’s kind of odd and suspicious, but it hasn’t been labeled a fraud,” said Det. Cam Gough.

Police questioned May after the department received several calls from concerned veterans.

Gough said no laws have been broken. He said when he asked May about her lab facilities, she first said she had a lab in Pontiac, Ill., south of Chicago. Later, she said the lab had yet to be built, but more than 120 hectares of land has been put aside for the project.

Robert Karls, city administrator for Pontiac, said May approached the city about three years ago with a proposal to build a medical lab, but the deal depended on May landing U.S. government contracts, which did not happen, Karls said.

“There’s certainly nothing in the works,” Karls said.

Zimmerman and Rebiere remain angry about May’s visit, suggesting she’s giving false hope to a veteran population that is already hurting.

“To dupe the ill and desperate veterans, Canadian veterans, is reprehensible,” said Zimmerman. “There are veterans who are not well and don’t really know why, and they are desperate.”

elliot.ferguson@sunmedia.ca
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 01:18:56 PM by CVA_Posting »