Subject:     [du-list] Comments on the ECONEWS article or: WHAT IS DEPLETED URANIUM?
   Date:      Fri, 28 Feb 2003 21:24:21 +0000
   From:     "robert james parsons" <>


  A few comments on the article (reprinted below):

  DU shells are not "coated" with DU but made out of it. The shells used against tank armour are usually called "rounds" or

  For penetrating buildings and bunkers, missiles and guided bomb units (GBUs) are used carrying as much as several tons of DU.
  Rounds would do the same job, but are too small relative to the target to have more than a reltively modest destructive effect.

  In the case of the famous bunker in Baghdad hit on 10 February 1991 where some four hundred civilians had taken refuge,
  photographs of the bunker show a hole some ten to fifteen feet across in reinforced concrete some twelve or fifteen feet thick.
  No anti-tank round (even the biggest, the 120mm.) could have done that, only a big missile or GBU.

  While breathing the dust can make one prone to developing cancer, it depends upon the individual's capacity to resist the
  carcinogenic effects of the radiation form the dust, and this, in turn, depends upon how big a dose of dust is received and what's in
  the DU (traces of plutonium for example?). Touching it does not necessarily represent a risk, per se, especially if the part of
  the body touched by the dust is immediately and thoroughly washed. However, getting the dust on the skin exposes one to the
  risk of having the dust, which is microscopic, enter the body through open lesions, which may also be microscopic, hence invisible.

  Once in the body, the dust particles, which, owing to the high temperature at which they have been burned, are ceramic-like, hence
  non-soluable, are not immedaitely filtered out by the kidneys. The kidneys are always trying to remove what they can, which
  accounts for the presence of uranium in urine for years following an exposure, but the action of the kidneys works primarily on
  soluable elements (such as natural uranium ingested in food or water), so that only small amounts of DU are filtered out at any given
  time. Since uranium in its chemical properties is similar in many ways to calcium, the body tends to absorb the particles into the bone
  as it would calcium once the blood has picked them up in the lungs. Thus it is that in addition to lung cancer, a major disease
  associated with uranium contamination is leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells, produced in the bone marrow).

  Rosalie Bertell has written a great deal about the destructive effects of low level radiation upon the immune system and upn the
  overall resistance of the human body, engendering all sort of diseases. It is plausible that much of the chemical and pharmaceutical
  pollution that Gulf War troops were exposed to in 1990-91 (residuals of which could have remained in the body a long time) might
  have been taken in stride by their bodies, especially given their exceptionally high level of physical fitness, but for the negaitive affects
  of the DU exposure upon their resistance and their damaged immune systems.

  The United Nations has not expressed a desire to ban DU. The United Nations Human Rights Sub-Commission of independent
  experts has declared it a weapon of indiscriminate distruction (and called for a ban? I'm not sure, but I do believe that this is the
  case) and has mandated a study on it. The study, once accepted and approved by the Sub-Commission, must be sent up to the
  Sub-Commission's parent body, the Human Rights Commission, made up of fifty-three governmental delegations. If they accept it
  (and they can also modify it), they can pass it on the the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC, which has in the
  UN hierarchy the same status as the Security Council), under whose agis the Commission operates. The ECOSOC can then
  present it to the General Assembly of all UN member states, which then can debate the subject and eventually procede to vote a
  resolution of some sort, for example calling for a ban.

  If this seems long and complicated, reflect that niether the Human Rights Commission, nor the ECOSOC nor the General Assembly
  is likely to take up the subject on its own, since each body is made up of govenrments that trade favors and thus can influence a vote
  and klill  project. The independent experts of the Sub-Commission have gotten the ball rolling, in spite of the recalcitrance of many
  governments. The Commission just may keep it going. Once it gets to the ECOSOC there is, I'd say, about a fifty-fifty chance of it's
  continuing on to the General Assembly.

  The radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years is the time necessary for half of any given quantity of DU to lose its radiation through
  what is known as the decay chain. Half of the the other half that's left after these 4.5 billion years will then take another 4.5 billion
  years to lose its radioactivity, and so on. By the time it has all lost all its radioactivity, some 10 billion years will have elapsed. The
  solar system is generally reckoned to be about 4.5 billion years old. So, it is reasonable to talk about permanent radioactivity or

  It is not just the density that makes it possible for DU to penetrate armour but also the pyrophoricity (the fact that it burns upon
  impact) and the speed (veolocity) at which the rounds are fired. The missiles and guided bomb units are rocket driven at very high
  speeds and carry explosive charges to ignite them.

  The amount of uranium or DU in a penetrator that burns depends upon what it hits and how. If it hits rock and shatters, splinters
  (shrapnel) may fly off without burning although whatever is left of the round may burn. Similarly, in hitting an armoured tank, a round
  may also shatter to some extent. If it hits the ground, it probably will not ignite at all. The numerous rounds that Dr Siegwart-Horst
  Gunther found the children of southern Iraq playing with and which he brought back to Germany with him for analysis were still
  intact, and there are numerous accounts of people visiting the area who have found others. The estimates of how much burns overall
  that I have seen vary from twenty percent to eighty percent. Because the missiles and guided bomb units have an explosive charge,
  their DU will generally -- and reliably -- burn at one hundred percent.

  The Pentagon at the beginning of February, announced the sort of laser-guided bomb units and missiles they will be using in Iraq, at
  least at first -- some 9,700. I asked Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker about these at an on-the-record press
  conference here in the Geneva United Nations Office, a couple of weeks ago, noting that the United States would be using
  radiological weapons of indiscriminate destruction against a country that was merely suspected of having weapons of mass
  destruction. He replied that some people considered that the depleted uranium in these weapons made them radiological weapons,
  but the United States govenment disagreed, thus admitting, for the first time, on the record that these weapons do indeed contain

  I refer you to Dai Williams' reports on DU in Afghanistan and in Iraq.


  Robert James Parsons

  rue de la Flèche 17
  CH - 1207 Geneva, Switzerland
  Telephone: +41 22 736-59-55
  Geneva United Nations Office
  Press Room No 1
  CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
  Telephone: +41 22 917-20-18
    From: "tony del plato" <>
    Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 10:52:08 -0500


    It's dirty, and it's deadly.

    When you coat a shell with it, it slices through armoured plating as if it was cheese, turning tanks, buildings and bomb shelters into  exploding incinerators.

 It causes cancer among people who breathe its dust, or touch it. It causes horrible birth defects among the babies of pregnant  women who breathe it or touch it.

It causes a host of chronic ailments and sicknesses among returning troops. It was! used by the US army in Iraq, in Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

    The United Nations wants a worldwide ban on it.

    The US plans to use it again, in its war on Iraq. 

What is it? It's a waste product that arises during the production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and reactors. It's called depleted uranium.

    It has a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years. The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. This means that the cities, battlefields, and   locations where depleted uranium is used will be radioactive and remain radioactive for the next 4.5 billion years. That's as long as  the Earth has existed. That's twice as long as the entire evolution of life on Earth.

Seventy times longer than the time since the dinosaurs became extinct.

Depleted uranium is extremely dense; that's what makes it capable of slicing into heavily armoured vehicles. That's why the American military likes it.

In the First Gulf War, in 1991, the US army fired off a! million rounds of depleted uranium, totalling 300 tons. In Baghdad, where they  thought they were attacking a secret bunker, they sliced into it with depleted uranium and incinerated 800 women and children  who were hiding in a shelter. Along the "highway of death", outside Basra, in southern Iraq, they incinerated every tank, every  soldier.

Along that road, the shell-holes in the blown-up tanks are 1000 times more radioactive than the background. The desert near the  vehicles is 100 times more radioactive.

70% of the uranium burns on impact, turning into as a fine ceramic dust of depleted uranium oxide particles which gets blown on  the wind, and washed into the groundwater. In the Basra region, there has been a 100-fold increase in uranium in the  groundwater.

And then there's the birth defects. Children born with fingers missing. Children born with legs missing.

    Children born with parts of their face missing. Children born with their eyes missing.
    Children born with grossly deformed skulls.

    Children born with enormous distended bellies.

    Children born with no hands.

    Children born with no genitals.

    Children born with no skin over their bellies.

    Children born with open holes in their backs.

    Children born whose bodies are beyond words, in their pitiful awfulness.

 There has been a 10-fold increase in such birth defects in the Basra region since 1988. I have seen the photos of these children.
    You can see them for yourself at But be warned - these photos are not  for the squeamish, and may give some people  nightmares. They are also at

    There has also been a 17-fold increase in cancer in southern Iraq since 1988, and a sudden increase in childhood leukemia.

    That was Iraq. Then there was Afghanistan. The data is still sketchy, but tests on residents in Jalalaba! d have found a level of  uranium in the urine of residents that is 400% to 2000% higher than normal. The contamination is also present in Kabul.

    A scientific team from the Uranium Medical Research Centre that went to Kabul in September 2002 found that people who had  been exposed to debris from the US/British precision bombing were reporting pains in their joints, back and kidney pain, muscle  weakness, memory problems, confusion, and  disorientation. Members of the team began to complain of the same symptoms.

    They found that 25% of new-born infants were suffering from congenital and post-natal health problems that appeared to be  associated with uranium contamination.

    So what happened to the US and British troops who were exposed to the same dust?

    It's hard to sort out, because the troops who served in the Gulf were exposed to a cocktail of injections and chemical and  biological hazards, as  well as depleted uranium. But the symptoms are telling.

    There were 700,000 US troops who served in the Gulf War in 1991.

    50% were black or Latino. Many were women.

    260,000 have applied for medical benefits.

    159,000 have been awarded disability allowances.

    Many are probably on low incomes, who cannot afford expensive medical insurance.

    They call it Gulf War Syndrome; nobody in the military wants to talk about it. The returning troops are suffering from reactive  airway disease; neurological damage; c! ataracts; kidney problems; lymphoma; skin and organ cancer; neuropsychological  problems; uranium in their semen; sexual dysfunction; and birth defects in their offspring. Birth defects are turning up four times   more often in the children of those who served in the Gulf than normal. (see

    That was Afghanistan. Now a new war on Iraq looms. A new round of death. A new nightmare.

    Unless we stand together, work together and call out together to stop it, and to outlaw depleted uranium forever, as the United  Nations has recommended.

    Four and a half billion years.


    Afghanistan: The Nuclear Nightmare Starts:

    Born Soldiers: Birth Defects from Depleted Uranium in the Gulf?

    International Action Center's Depleted Uranium Education Project:

    Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium. Seattle Post


    National Gulf War Resource Center:

    Written and compiled by Guy Dauncey, Victoria, B.C., Canada

    Author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change.

    Editor of EcoNews.
    "Those who choose to be at peace ! must help their neighbors to be at peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all."

               author unknown