Media Release

Professor Randall Parrish, University of Leicester and
NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory,
British Geological Survey, UK
Dr. David Carpenter, Institute for Health and the Environment, NY
Professor John Arnason, The University at Albany, NY

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

David Carpenter, 518-525-2660
John Arnason, 518-442-4474
Anne Rabe, 518-653-3843
Cell, 518-732-4538
(Set up R. Parrish, Tested People Interviews)


Uranium Found in Homes After Federal Cleanup of NL Industries Pollution

(Albany, NY) A new scientific report documents depleted uranium (DU) can be detected in people more than two decades after exposure when using high sensitivity urine tests. The tests were conducted on people who lived or worked near the former DU munitions factory in Colonie, New York. Recent environmental test results reveal that significant DU remains in some household dust, after a federal cleanup of the area.

The biological study shows a significant proportion of tested individuals have internal DU contamination as a result of exposure to DU emissions occurring over 20 years ago and or residual contamination still remaining from the former NL Industries factory near Albany, NY. Positive results were found in former employees and residents who lived or worked in close proximity to the plant during its active phase of emissions from 1958 to 1982. The detection of DU in 100% of workers and up to 20% of the residents tested is significant, since no previous study has documented evidence of exposure to DU aerosols more than 20 years prior.

Five factory workers continue to excrete high amounts of uranium dominated by a DU isotopic signature. The persistence of high excretion rates of uranium in urine in workers, more than 20 years since active exposure, indicates that the body burden of uranium must still be significant, whether retained in lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys or bone. Of eighteen individuals that either lived or worked near the plant for many years, DU was detected in up to four, with DU being 1–12% of the excreted uranium The results are being published in an international journal, Science of the Total Environment, in the near future (electronically available on-line). The isotope measurements, which have never before been conducted on any community in the U.S., are a joint initiative of United States and United Kingdom scientists, led by Professor Randall Parrish. (Summary of journal article).

Scientists also conducted tests of household dust in a few homes and a business near the NL Industries site and discovered DU contamination in excess of the federal site cleanup standard. The startling results came just two months after the federal government ended a "clean up" of the site and surrounding neighborhood and 27 years after the NYS Supreme Court closed the NL Industries factory for illegal uranium emissions.

Randall Parrish, Professor, Dept. of Geology, University of Leicester and NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, UK said, "Our study has shown that it is possible to detect and potentially quantify the historic exposure of residents to aerosol DU oxides from the NL plant. The amount of DU aerosols released from the NL plant is comparable to the aerosolized DU from the entire 1991 Gulf War, and considering the attention paid to Gulf War veterans and their health concerns, I feel it is entirely appropriate to look at Colonie health issues in much more detail."

Dr. David Carpenter, Institute for Health & the Environment, University at Albany, said, "DU is a radioactive substance, and we know that ionizing radiation causes cancer and birth defects. Uranium also has toxicity independent of the radioactive component, but less is known about these effects. Study of the health of exposed individuals is necessary.”

John Arnason, Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University at Albany said, “Because DU occurs as microscopic particles that are potentially harmful when inhaled, resuspension of contaminated dust is a concern. The particles are similar to those produced in test ranges and battlefields where DU weapons have been used, making study of the NL Industries site critical to understanding this problem.”

NL Industries emitted at least 5 tons of DU aerosols into a residential and commercial area from 1958 to 1982 from its factory at 1130 Central Avenue (Rte. 5), Colonie, NY. DU is a toxic chemical due to its heavy metal and radiological properties. NL used DU to manufacture armor-piercing munitions (projectiles) and other products.

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