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City, state veterans leaders seek munitions study

Jun 10, 2006 | www.bristolpress.com

During a campaign stop in Bristol, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said he may try to amend a defense spending bill next week to add money for a study about the impact of depleted uranium munitions on the health of veterans.

"We need an independent study," the Connecticut Democrat said Friday.

Advocates for veterans have been saying for years they are concerned that the weakly radioactive, dense metal used in modern-day munitions may have exposed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to a range of health hazards.

They argue the U.S. government has done little to follow up the reports or lend a hand to veterans who may be suffering because of exposure to the material.

State Representative Roger Michele, a Bristol Democrat from the 77th District, called depleted uranium "the Agent Orange of this war" and asked for Lieberman's help in raising the issue on the federal level.

Michele, who co-chairs the General Assembly's Veterans Affairs Committee, said it is a big issue and that comprehensive testing is needed to find out what's really gone on with it.

He said that soldiers are coming home from battle with a range of health problems that might be connected to depleted uranium.

Michele said he believes that depleted uranium is "causing an awful lot of problems, like birth defects" and that a testing regimen is needed for returning veterans to find out how widespread the problem is.

City Councilor Art Ward, a Democrat who works as a veterans counselor for the state, said that experts haven't pinpointed particular problems but most think there's a major issue with depleted uranium.

"It's more obvious that it is than it isn't," Ward told Lieberman during the senator's campaign stop at Carmine's Italian Grill.

Lieberman said that if there is a question, the federal government has a responsibility to veterans to find out answers. He said that a defense appropriations bill that the Senate plans to take up Monday would be a good vehicle for adding funding to cover the necessary study.

"It may be that we can get an amendment in to get a study," Lieberman said. "It's short notice, but I think we can do it."


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