These US Troops Are Slowly Being Poisoned by Lead in Their Bones
By Patricia Kime
4 Apr 2019
One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results "a big deal." After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD -- or was malingering -- Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.
A contractor shows the bullets and rubber that he cleaned in the Training Support Center Benelux 25-meter indoor firing range, on Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017. (U.S. Army/Visual Information Specialist Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie)A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine's At War Blog.
Thirty-eight troops -- mostly from Special Forces units -- have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one's tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.
Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.
While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.
"It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family," he said. "I mean, we were in crisis."
Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by Navy Capt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins' physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins' issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.
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