NEWS
11/04/2011 07:46 EDT | Updated 01/04/2012 05:12 EST

Pascal Lacoste Hunger Strike: Canadian Veteran Says He Was Exposed To Uranium, Starts Protest Saturday

CP

LEVIS, Que. - A former soldier who says he was poisoned while serving overseas is planning to start a hunger strike Saturday in front of the office of Canada's veterans affairs minister.

Pascal Lacoste says the steady decline in his health began after he was exposed to depleted uranium in Bosnia in the 1990s.

The 38-year-old says Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney and his department have denied his requests for decontamination treatments.

The Quebec City resident says he won't be eating beyond lunchtime today — and he insists he won't touch food again until the government gets him medical help for his condition.

But the Veterans Affairs department maintains it's unlikely any Canadian soldiers were contaminated with depleted uranium because few, if any, ever came into contact with it while in service.

Lacoste says he also hopes to help other military vets who might be poisoned with depleted uranium but don't even know it.

He plans to undertake the hunger strike while sitting in his SUV in the parking lot in front of Blaney's riding office in Levis, Que., across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.

Lacoste says he's fed up after suffering from a degenerative neurological condition, infertility and chronic pain for more than a decade.

His doctor says tests have shown he does have an unusually high level of uranium in his hair — but an independent radiation expert questions the reliability of the testing.

Concern that soldiers may have been contaminated with depleted uranium has been a controversial topic for years.

Major international bodies, like the United Nations and the World Health Organization, have published reports saying there is no scientific evidence to link depleted uranium to health problems.

Veterans Affairs says tests performed a decade ago on around 200 returning soldiers did not find any toxic levels.

Depleted uranium, a leftover of uranium processing, has been used to make some types of munitions and military armour.

The dense, low-cost metal was used in conflicts such as the Balkans and the first Gulf War, where Canadian troops were on the ground.

It is only believed to be harmful if dust from spent ammunition or damaged armour is ingested or inhaled.

A spokesman for Blaney says specialists are available to help Lacoste.