READ MORE ABOUT DEPLETED URANIUM
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
MORE ABOUT DEPLETED URANIUM
| From: "tony del plato" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: DEPLETED URANIUM
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 10:52:08 -0500
#124a ECONEWS SPECIAL ISSUE
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 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.
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 www.chronicillnet.org/online/lifemag.html
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: http://www.ngwrc.org/Dulink/du_link.htm
Written and compiled by Guy Dauncey, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change.
Editor of EcoNews. http://www.earthfuture.com.