Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Guest Post: Vet Health Issues - Depleted Uranium, Asbestos, and the Insurance Gap

Occasionally I get requests from someone to put up a ‘guest post.’  I’ve only done a couple and they’ve been from people I know who tell me I should post on a topic and I’ve turned it around and asked them to write it.  Most guest posts end at that point.   I’ve turned down a couple of unsolicited requests from people I don’t know. 

But then I got one recently and I responded by saying something like, I don’t promise anything, but send me the piece and I’ll see if it ‘feels right’ for here. 

This one is an important topic and raised some issues I hadn’t thought of, so here it is.  The writer is  Douglas Karr, USN Veteran of Operations Desert Storm & Desert Shield. 

So here's his post:

Access to medical insurance leaves much to be desired for veterans

What’s the biggest threat facing the health of those men and women who’ve served in our armed forces? Believe it or not, it’s lack of access to medical insurance. A 2003 report, authored by Harvard University and the advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen, found well over 1.5 million veterans fell in between the cracks: They earned too much money through their jobs to qualify for Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services, yet did not earn enough to be able to afford private insurance. 
In 2005, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees all veteran benefits including health care, was operating at a one billion dollar deficit. By the following year, health and disability payments for veterans injured in the Iraq War had tacked on an additional $228 billion.

The healthcare costs of our Iraq veterans will only rise in the next few years. In addition to the grueling physical conditions these veterans served under, they were also exposed to a huge number of toxic substances like depleted uranium and asbestos.

Once considered a byproduct of the manufacture of uranium 235, today depleted uranium (DU) is prized as being an ideal weapon for penetrating heavy armor and tanks. When a DU shell is shot into the air, it bursts into flames; as the burning mass of uranium travels through the air, it releases millions of radioactive particles that have actually been transformed into ceramics because of the punishing heat, making them very difficult to excrete from the body. DU has been at least anecdotally linked to a number of cancers and other debilitative diseases, but most conclusively linked to birth defects including hydrocephalus, spina bifida, collodian membrane ichthyosis and severe malformations.

While asbestos has not been widely used in the United States since the late 1970s when federal agencies began regulating its use in occupational settings, it is still a popular insulating material throughout the Middle East, including Iraq which imports approximately $200,000 worth of the toxic mineral every year. Iraqi asbestos imports are used largely in construction; therefore, every time a US serviceman or servicewoman is at the scene of a bombed building, he or she is at risk for breathing dust impregnated with deadly asbestos microfibers. Once these asbestos microfibers are inhaled, they become embedded in the lungs where they precipitate inflammatory changes that over time become the precursors of deadly diseases like malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the protective lining of the lungs, the abdomen and the heart. Also referred to as asbestos cancer, this disease is characterized by a prolonged latency period: It may take 20 to 50 years before veterans exposed to asbestos in Iraq are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

I was busy when Doug first contacted me so I didn’t even try to look him up until after I’d said ok.  It turned out that he wears several hats.  He's got the MarketTech Blog and he's the co-author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.  Is this slick marketing on his part?  Maybe, but he didn't tell me anything about the book or the website.  He did tell me that he's the Veteran Advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, but only after I asked for more information.  And he only told me, after I asked, that he now lives in Indianapolis and how you can email him. My sense is that the Vet health issues are important to him.  I'd heard about depleted uranium bullets and the potential harm they were going to cause, but I hadn't heard about the asbestos issues in Iraq.  And see his 'infographic' poster below.

Thanks Doug.

Warning:  Don't get your hopes up if you're thinking about sending in a guest post.  I suggest people (including myself) regularly break their patterns and do something they don't normally do.  So this fits in with that, but I don't expect it to be repeated too often.

To GREATLY enlarge, click on image.


  1. I did not know much about DU. Now I know more. Interesting web site at WHO. For example, if you are what you eat, you are in part DU. "Average annual intakes of uranium by adults are estimated to be about 0.5mg (500 μg) from ingestion of food and water and 0.6 μg from breathing air."

  2. Mesothelioma cancer is certainly such an ill-fated disease, and really may well have been avoidable had we all known back then what we realize now. It is as well a pity that several people get irritated regarding the mesothelioma cancer campaigns on television, but those affected ought to be compensated fairly IMO. Mesothelioma lawsuit lawyer


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