Officials to test military for depleted uranium levels

QCS Staff

The New Mexico Department of Health will test military veterans and active duty personnel who may have been exposed to depleted uranium in the Persian Gulf War, the Afghanistan conflict or the current war in Iraq in Quay and surrounding counties the week of Dec. 13, a spokeswoman for the department said.

The Department of Health staff will visit the homes of veterans and active duty personnel who make appointments to do a whole health survey, Deborah Busemeyer, communications director, said.

Individuals in every county throughout the state will be tested from from Nov. 13 to the week of Dec. 10, Busemeyer said.

The Department’s Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau will conduct tests to determine if individuals have high concentrations of natural uranium and/or depleted uranium in their urine.

Depleted uranium is used for bullets, tank armor and explosives, Busemeyer said. One of the possible side effects of having high levels of depleted uranium is kidney damage, according to a department release.

“The New Mexico Legislature gave us funding to test veterans and active duty military who may have been exposed to depleted uranium,” Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil said in the release. “We encourage military personnel to take advantage of these free tests.”

Military veterans and personnel who are interested in the test are asked to call the department to make an appointment, Busemeyer said. The tests are free. The department will test the person’s urine for total uranium at its Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque. If the urine sample tests high for uranium, the department will offer a second test to determine if this uranium is depleted or natural uranium, Busemeyer said.

Prior to the appointment, individuals who make appointments will receive instructions and a container to test urine that has been collected the morning of the appointment, she said.

At the appointment, a department staff member will give a brief questionnaire and take a tap water sample, which will also be tested for total uranium. The water is tested for uranium because New Mexico, on average, has a higher concentration of uranium in drinking water than the rest of the country.

To keep the naturally occurring amount of uranium at acceptable levels in Tucumcari, the city blends its water from several wells before it is distributed.

To learn more and to make an appointment, contact the Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau at: DOH-EHEB@state.nm.us or call toll-free, 888-878-8992.