Puerto Rico (Pontiac) – Lurking amidst Hurricane Maria’s destruction is a volatile monster contaminating Puerto Rico’s mainland. Years of US military exercises on the island have left deposits of depleted uranium. With the US territory broken by Hurricane Maria, residents now worry about widespread contamination.
Depleted uranium, or DU, is a radioactive byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. Whether for nuclear power or a mega-yield bomb, DU is the inevitable consequence. It’s a waste product military’s have used to full explosive effect for decades. Tank rounds with dense DU tips have vastly augmented destructive potential. Upon impact, DU molecules contaminates the blast radius and beyond.
Like nukes, DU munitions cause widespread radioactive contamination and lingers for billions of years. In Iraq, DU munitions were responsible for staggering increases in cancers and birth defects. Particularly grotesque infant deformities range from tumors, to organs outside the body, or no organs, limbs, or heads at all. Even cyclops deformities–literally one eye in the middle of the face–have been recorded. Just recently, it was also confirmed that DU has been used in bombing campaigns in Syria.
DU doesn’t just sprinkle the charred sands of America’s middle eastern war zones. It’s also found on US military training grounds in containment areas. Recent tropical storms, particularly Hurricane Maria, threaten to compromise these zones.
One Puerto Rican island–Vieques, with the Caribbean’s highest illness rates–is of particular concern. It’s 9000 residents, The Atlantic Reports, suffers from vastly higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disorders than mainlanders. Even when compared to the rest of the island chain. Over the last 60 years, the US military has exposed the island to depleted uranium and even Agent Orange in various tests. Cancer rates on Vieques are also 27 times higher than the rest of Puerto Rico.
A report of Vieques’ health issues in the early 2000’s was mostly ignored until protests ignited. Residents demanded the removal of all US military presence, driving away only the Navy from 2001 until 2003. Despite the island’s history of military testing and contamination, no direct link to islanders’ health is officially acknowledged.
“No apparent public health hazard”, were noted by officials despite the inherent nature of these chemicals and munitions. Researchers can’t even conduct analysis independent of the US Navy, which provides most soil samples. It wouldn’t mark the first time America’s military shied away from acknowledging the dangers to DU and Agent Orange.
Veterans of wars from Vietnam to Iraq 2003 have all reported chronic, debilitating health issues. Many of these, including cancers and birth defects, become generational. Even if little to no prior family history of the ailments exists. Just recently, it was found that the Veterans Association regularly denies claims of Gulf War Syndrome. GWS is a term used to describe a slew of crippling symptoms in veterans of the Gulf War, and even the 2003 invasion. Although the military denies it’s connection to chemical warfare the array of symptoms suggests this.
It’s also not just Vieques that’s in danger of contamination after the recent hurricane bombardment. The disturbances caused by the hurricanes could ferry DU contaminates to other parts of Puerto Rico. Even residents in devastated Houston, Texas are at risk.
Several American mainland chemical containment sites having been affected by the storms, with officials downplaying the damage. Other non-military facilities, such as plants and factories, are also deeply compromised. The flood waters are choking cities and neighborhoods with feces, waste, toxic chemicals, and perhaps even quarantined DU.
The Trump Administration’s response to the crisis’ across the southern US and Caribbean Islands has been questionable to say the least. Shortly before the tragedies, President Trump deployed thousands of conventional troops back to the 17 year Afghan war. Many of these boots are combat ready and active. Some were just infants when America first invaded the war torn country.
Whereas it was discovered Trump downplayed the number of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, he over-represented the number sent to Houston. Puerto Rico, however, has seen few timely responses by Trump’s Administration despite it being a US territory.
Countless American, international observers, and humanitarian organization have condemned Trump’s absence in tackling one of the worst tragedies to hit the island chain. Trump and other officials have also attempted to dismiss the risks of compromised chemical facilities leaking toxins into flood waters throughout Houston. The same scenario’s are likely playing out in other parts of the south, like Louisiana. With a record like that, should anyone expect a forthcoming analysis of depleted uranium contamination in disaster zones? Stay close to independent reports, listen to survivors, and connect the dots.
This article was prepared by Isiah Holmes for The Pontiac Tribune.