For immediate release: January 11, 1997
GULF WAR VETERANS, MEDICAL RESEARCHERS WARN OF
EXPOSURE AT ARMY'S TOOELE CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Salt Lake City--Leaders of Gulf veteran organizations joined chemical weapons incinerator
opponents today to warn that 180 million Americans living downwind of proposed
chemical weapons incinerators face the risk of agent contamination.
The Pentagon admits that small amounts of the kinds of nerve agent that may have
contributed to Gulf War illnesses are emitted in smokestack exhaust at the Tooele, Utah
incinerator, although it claims that the amounts are so low that citizens downwind shouldn't
Kim Smith said, "release of any amount of chemical warfare agent is unacceptable,
especially in light of growing evidence that exposure to chemical agents may be a
contributing factor to the illnesses more than 80,000 veterans are reporting. I am concerned
about the health of my children. It is unconscionable to me state regulators allow this
facility to continue to operate knowing that chemical agents are being released into the
environment, and knowing that two high level former managers have stepped forward at
the expense of their careers to say this facility is unsafe."
Using satellite imagery to demonstrate distances chemical warfare agents traveled during
the Gulf War, Jim Tuite former Senate investigator and Gulf War Veterans advocate, said it
should be assumed that during a major accident a plume of chemical agents could drift as
far as 300 kilometers downwind. Tuite said, "This means that as many as 180 million
Americans may live downwind from proposed chemical weapons incinerators should a
major accidental release occur. Salt Lake City is just twenty-five miles downwind of this
facility and we know that agent is being released from the smokestack."
New studies addressed in an abstract by The Journal of the American Medical Association
yesterday indicate an increased probability of agent exposure being connected to Gulf War
Syndrome. In studies done at the University of Texas Southwestern, researchers
concluded, "Our findings provide evidence of associations between symptoms in Gulf War
veterans and exposure to chemicals, including chemical nerve agents."
Gulf War Illnesses researcher, Howard Urnovitz, Ph.D., who is leading research on
immune damage caused by low level chemical agent exposure said, "Study after study
indicates that there is a link between low level exposure to chemical agents and chronic
health problems. There is no proven acceptable level of exposure to these chemicals."
Gulf War Veteran, Paul Sullivan, a spokesperson for the National Gulf War Resource
Center, who lives in Atlanta downwind from a proposed chemical weapons incinerator in
Anniston, Alabama, said, "The Pentagon told us there were no chemical weapons present
in the Persian Gulf. Then they said no one was exposed. This is the same Pentagon that is
telling citizens who live near its chemical weapons stockpiles that releases from incinerator
smokestacks won't hurt them. I would be skeptical."
Due to public opposition to incineration, cost overruns, and technical problems in the
Pacific and Utah, the Army announced its recommendation to abandon incineration in
Maryland and Indiana to pursue non-incineration technologies. Congress has funded and
mandated demonstration of safer, non-incineration technologies for assembled munitions,
such as those stored in Utah.
Craig Williams, spokesperson for the Chemical Weapons Working Group said,
"The Army is moving forward with safer technologies at stockpiles in Maryland and
Indiana. There is no excuse not to use safer technologies in Utah and at all chemical
weapons storage sites."
Williams concluded, " Allowing the Pentagon to release low-levels of chemical agent into
communities across this country, in the face of increasing evidence of harm, is not
acceptable. How can President Clinton, the Pentagon and the Congress claim to be sincere
in their efforts to assist the Gulf War veterans and at the same time allow the same agents to
be released into civilian populations? It's indefensible!"
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