Bill would require Uranium screen for national guard troops
by Gintautas Dumcius and Jim O'Sullivan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE, June 14, 2006
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -Massachusetts National Guard troops would be tested for illness caused by the toxic dust from a radioactive metal used in uranium-tipped bullets and armor, under legislation moving forward on Beacon Hill.
Under the bill (H 4591), granted initial approval Wednesday by the House, the adjutant general would be required to help eligible National Guardsmen or veterans obtain testing or medical treatment.
The bill calls for a task force to submit recommendations by Jan. 31, 2007 to the Legislature about educating and helping returning service personnel. The task force would also be charged with initiating a health registry for veterans and personnel returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other battleground countries.
Depleted uranium, a heavy metal used in armor-penetrating weaponry and munitions-resistant armor, is thought to cause birth defects in children born to parents exposed to its ash or dust. Direct exposure can lead to cancer, neurological and kidney problems, and a host of other diseases, supporters of the bill say. "To me, it's just beyond words, beyond any semblance of decency that we could send our people over there to fight for our country, and expose them and their families to this hazard that could cut their lives short and ruin their families," said Rep. Matthew Patrick (D-Barnstable), the bill's chief sponsor.
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs, Patrick said, has not done enough to examine and rectify the problem. Similar legislation in Connecticut, tucked into the state budget at the end of the year, produced a task force last year.
Patrick said he hoped to steer the bill, which has drawn signatures from 19 co-sponsors, through the Legislature before formal sessions end next month. "We're pushing it. We think it's important. I think leadership views it favorably. All the committee chairs were very supportive."
Representative Matt Patrick may be contacted at 617-722-2090 or [email protected].