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California's DU Law

The Veterans Health and Safety Act of 2006 is a new law to help members of the military re-deployed to California from duty areas where depleted uranium (DU) was used to be tested for exposure to DU during their service.

Most service members didn't receive DU safety training nor do they know if they may have been exposed to uranium by breathing contaminated smoke or dust, or by being in or around equipment hit by a DU round. They don't know its potential dangers, or what defines the three levels of exposure.

The new law requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CDVA) to create an outreach message about DU. It will inform eligible members of their right to request DU screening and how to access federal testing services. Without additional information they will not have adequate information to decide if they may have been exposed and should self-report for screening and testing.

Decades of government studies have shown uranium, in any form, to be a potential health hazard--especially if exposures are internal. For this reason, the production, manufacturing, transportation, storage, and use of DU is highly regulated. The "findings" section of the new law describes DU as a toxic radioactive material that can cause multiple organ damage, cancer, genetic mutations that can be carried to future generations, and act as a heavy metal producing toxicity similar to lead poisoning.

The need to protect California's service members became apparent after three studies conducted by the investigative arm of congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicated that the military has a poor record of compliance with mandated pre-deployment DU safety training, and poor compliance with the testing required for certain exposures to DU. Attempts to pass more effective legislation at the federal level have failed over the five most recent congresses and represents another reason for individual states to take legislative action to protect their troops. California is now one of several states that have taken such action to protect its resident service members.

Since 1991, hundreds of thousands of troops were potentially exposed to unknown amounts of inhaled uranium for undetermined durations. DU munitions range in size from 30mm shells used in repeating cannons to 1-½ metric ton "bunker-buster" bombs (the range is probably much higher, but this information remains classified). Upon contact with hard targets, DU munitions burn at 5000 degrees Fahrenheit and the majority of the projectile turns fragments into an extremely fine, nearly indestructible dust. The micron-sized dust particles can be spread over great distances by winds, and enter the soil, water, and food chain. With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, DU residue will contaminate an area long after a battle has concluded. Its effects are indiscriminate, and legally in question. For example, the DHS and NRC define a "dirty bomb" as a radiological agent dispersed by a conventional explosive--exactly defining DU munitions!

The Veterans Health and Safety Act of 2006 was proposed by the members of Veterans For Peace Chapter 56, Humboldt Bay, and was steered through the legislature by State Senator Wes Chesbro (District 1). The bill, SB1720, had broad support from veterans and health organizations at both chapter and national levels.

Our service members have a right to know if exposure to radioactive DU, or other toxic agents, compromised their health, or that of their families, during service to their country on our behalf.