For years, the government has denied that depleted uranium (DU), a radioactive toxic waste left over from nuclear fission and added to munitions used in the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, poisoned Iraqi civilians and veterans.
But a little-known 1993 Defense Department document written by then-Brigadier Gen. Eric Shinseki, now the secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), shows that the Pentagon was concerned about DU contamination and the agency had ordered medical testing on all personnel that were exposed to the toxic substance.
The VA, however, never conducted the medical tests, which may have deprived hundreds of thousands of veterans from receiving medical care to treat cancer and other diseases that result from exposure to DU.
The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center recently reported that ten years of data confirm that service members tend to have higher rates of certain cancers compared to civilians, according to the Army Times. While researchers suspected that service members are diagnosed with cancer more often and at a younger age because they have guaranteed access to health care and mandatory exams, the data does not explain the disparities in diagnosis among branches of the military. For example, the rate of lung cancer among sailors is twice that of other branches, while Marines have much lower cancer rates across the board.