Tag Archives: depleted uranium

Depleted uranium risk 'ignored': BBC

Both British and US troops have used depleted uranium in Iraq
UK and US forces have continued to use depleted uranium weapons despite warnings they pose a cancer risk, a BBC investigation has found.

Scientists have pointed to health statistics in Iraq, where the weapons were used in the 1991 and 2003 wars.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2001 said they posed only a small contamination risk.
But a senior UN scientist said research showing how depleted uranium could cause cancer was withheld.
The UK Ministry of Defence said that there was no evidence linking depleted uranium use to ill health.
Depleted uranium is extremely dense and hard, and is used for armour-piercing bullets or shells.
Fears over health implications led to a study by the WHO in 2001.
There is no scientific or medical evidence to link depleted uranium with the ill health of people living in the Gulf region – UK Ministry of Defence
Dr Mike Repacholi, who oversaw work on the report, told Angus Stickler of BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that depleted uranium was “basically safe”.
“You would have to ingest a huge amount of depleted uranium dust to cause any adverse health effect,” he said.
‘Risk from particles’
But Dr Keith Baverstock, who worked on the project, said research conducted by the US Department of Defense suggested otherwise.
He described a process known as genotoxicity, which begins when depleted uranium dust is inhaled.
“The particles that dissolve pose a risk – part radioactive – and part from the chemical toxicity in the lung,” he said.
Later, he said, the material enters the body and the blood stream, potentially affecting bone marrow, the lymphatic system and the kidneys.
The research was not included in the WHO report, and Dr Baverstock believes it was blocked.
Mr Repacholi said the findings were not collaborated by other reports and it was not WHO policy to publish “speculative” data. He denied any pressure was brought to bear.
But other senior scientists have pointed to worrying health statistics in Iraq, which show a rise in cancer and birth defects.
Prof Randy Parrish of the Isotope Geosciences Laboratory in the UK said environmental and health assessments were needed in Iraq to establish the facts.
Iraqi scientists trained by the UN are seeking to carry out such an assessment, but Henrik Slotte of the United Nations Environmental Programme said without clear information from the US on what was used and where, it was “like looking for a needle in a haystack”.
He said there was “no indication” this information was forthcoming from the US.
A spokesman for the UK’s Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, told the BBC that there was “no scientific or medical evidence” to link depleted uranium use to sickness in Iraq.
He said the MOD was aware of recent research into the effects of depleted uranium at cellular level, but that it had to be guided by “the professional advice of the Health Protection Agency and the International Commission on Radiological Protection”.
• Has a reduced proportion of isotope Uranium-235
• Less radioactive than natural uranium and very dense
• Military uses include defensive armour plating, armour-penetrating ordnance
• Can be inhaled as dust or ingested in contaminated food and water near impact sites
• Used in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia

Depleted Uranium death toll among US war veterans tops 11,000: nationwide media blackout keeps US public ignorant about this important story

James P. Tucker Jr., American Free Press, October 29, 2006
30mm munitions (jackets and penetrators) made with depleted uranium.
Birth-defects attributed to depleted uranium (not for the faint-hearted)
The death toll from the highly toxic weapons component known as depleted uranium (DU) has reached 11,000 soldiers and the growing scandal may be the reason behind Anthony Principi’s departure as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.
This view was expressed by Arthur Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter.
“The real reason for Mr. Principi’s departure was really never given,” Bernklau said. “However, a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the U.S. military.”
The “malady [from DU] that thousands of our military have suffered and died from has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. . . . The terrible truth is now being revealed,” Bernklau said.
Of the 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are now dead, he said. By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. More than a decade later, more than half (56 percent) who served in Gulf War I have permanent medical problems. The disability rate for veterans of the world wars of the last century was 5 percent, rising to 10 percent in Vietnam.
“The VA secretary was aware of this fact as far back as 2000,” Bernklau said. “He and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret’s report, it is far too big to hide or to cover up.”
Terry Johnson, public affairs specialist at the VA, recently reported that veterans of both Persian Gulf wars now on disability total 518,739, Bernklau said.
“The long-term effect of DU is a virtual death sentence,” Bernklau said. “Marion Fulk, a nuclear chemist, who retired from the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, and was also involved in the Manhattan Project, interprets the new and rapid malignancies in the soldiers [from the second war] as ‘spectacular’ — and a matter of concern.’ ”
While this important story appeared in a Washington newspaper and the wire services, it did not receive national exposure — a compelling sign that the American public is being kept in the dark about the terrible effects of this toxic weapon. (Veterans for Constitutional Law can be reached at (516) 474-4261.)
See also this 2004 article from Santa Cruz Currents Online

Mystery of Israel's secret uranium bomb

Robert Fisk, The Independent, October 28, 2006

Israeli bombing in southern Lebanon shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?
We know that the Israelis used American “bunker-buster” bombs on Hezbollah’s Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week. And we now know – after it first categorically denied using such munitions – that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed.
But scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hezbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel’s weapons inventory – and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed “elevated radiation signatures”. Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry – used by the Ministry of Defense – which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.
Dr Busby’s initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. “The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash … The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium.” A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.
Enriched uranium is produced from natural uranium ore and is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. A waste product of the enrichment process is depleted uranium, it is an extremely hard metal used in anti-tank missiles for penetrating armour. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than natural uranium, which is less radioactive than enriched uranium.
Israel has a poor reputation for telling the truth about its use of weapons in Lebanon. In 1982, it denied using phosphorous munitions on civilian areas – until journalists discovered dying and dead civilians whose wounds caught fire when exposed to air.
I saw two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames. Israel officially denied using phosphorous again in Lebanon during the summer – except for “marking” targets – even after civilians were photographed in Lebanese hospitals with burn wounds consistent with phosphorous munitions.
Then on Sunday, Israel suddenly admitted that it had not been telling the truth. Jacob Edery, the Israeli minister in charge of government-parliament relations, confirmed that phosphorous shells were used in direct attacks against Hezbollah, adding that “according to international law, the use of phosphorous munitions is authorized and the (Israeli) army keeps to the rules of international norms”.
Asked by The Independent if the Israeli army had been using uranium-based munitions in Lebanon this summer, Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorized by international law or international conventions.” This, however, begs more questions than it answers. Much international law does not cover modern uranium weapons because they were not invented when humanitarian rules such as the Geneva Conventions were drawn up and because Western governments still refuse to believe that their use can cause long-term damage to the health of thousands of civilians living in the area of the explosions.
American and British forces used hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) shells in Iraq in 1991 – their hardened penetrator warheads manufactured from the waste products of the nuclear industry – and five years later, a plague of cancers emerged across the south of Iraq.
Initial US military assessments warned of grave consequences for public health if such weapons were used against armored vehicles. But the US administration and the British government later went out of their way to belittle these claims. Yet the cancers continued to spread amid reports that civilians in Bosnia – where DU was also used by Nato aircraft – were suffering new forms of cancer. DU shells were again used in the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq but it is too early to register any health effects.
“When a uranium penetrator hits a hard target, the particles of the explosion are very long-lived in the environment,” Dr Busby said yesterday. “They spread over long distances. They can be inhaled into the lungs. The military really seem to believe that this stuff is not as dangerous as it is.” Yet why would Israel use such a weapon when its targets – in the case of Khiam, for example – were only two miles from the Israeli border? The dust ignited by DU munitions can be blown across international borders, just as the chlorine gas used in attacks by both sides in the First World War often blew back on its perpetrators.
Chris Bellamy, the professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University, who has reviewed the Busby report, said: “At worst it’s some sort of experimental weapon with an enriched uranium component the purpose of which we don’t yet know. At best – if you can say that – it shows a remarkably cavalier attitude to the use of nuclear waste products.”
The soil sample from Khiam – site of a notorious torture prison when Israel occupied southern Lebanon between 1978 and 2000, and a frontline Hezbollah stronghold in the summer war – was a piece of impacted red earth from an explosion; the isotope ratio was 108, indicative of the presence of enriched uranium. “The health effects on local civilian populations following the use of large uranium penetrators and the large amounts of respirable uranium oxide particles in the atmosphere,” the Busby report says, “are likely to be significant … we recommend that the area is examined for further traces of these weapons with a view to clean up.”
This summer’s Lebanon war began after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the Lebanese frontier into Israel, captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, prompting Israel to unleash a massive bombardment of Lebanon’s villages, cities, bridges and civilian infrastructure. Human rights groups have said that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked civilians, but that Hezbollah was also guilty of such crimes because it fired missiles into Israel which were also filled with ball-bearings, turning their rockets into primitive one-time-only cluster bombs.
Many Lebanese, however, long ago concluded that the latest Lebanon war was a weapons testing ground for the Americans and Iranians, who respectively supply Israel and Hezbollah with munitions. Just as Israel used hitherto-unproven US missiles in its attacks, so the Iranians were able to test-fire a rocket which hit an Israeli corvette off the Lebanese coast, killing four Israeli sailors and almost sinking the vessel after it suffered a 15-hour on-board fire.
What the weapons manufacturers make of the latest scientific findings of potential uranium weapons use in southern Lebanon is not yet known. Nor is their effect on civilians.

This generation’s Agent Orange?

Gulf War veteran tells local audiences that depleted uranium is causing countless ailments
John Larson, Mountain Mail, October 19, 2006
Demacio Lopez measures the radiation level in small fragments of shrapnel that came from wounds received by Jerry Wheat during the Gulf War. According to the readings, the radiation level measured 12 times higher than normal. John Larson photo
SOCORRO, New Mexico (STPNS) —
Gulf War veteran Jerry Wheat of Los Lunas spoke about his experiences with depleted uranium munitions Friday, Sept. 29, at the Disabled American Veterans Hall and at the Socorro Public Library.
Wheat said he was wounded by friendly fire on Feb. 27, 1990, as he was driving a Bradley armored personnel in Iraq, and that he did not know at the time that the U.S. shells that hit him were made from depleted uranium.
He said he was knocked unconscious by the first of two shells, and when he came to his clothing was on fire. He said the skin on his neck, upper back, and lower back was burning from depleted uranium shrapnel.
Awarded a Purple Heart, Wheat returned home to Los Lunas with pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body and mysterious body pains.
“I have had real bad joint pain, and abdominal problems,” Wheat said. “I get real bad headaches. I went from 220 pounds down to 160 pounds for no reason, and that’s when I started suspecting that it was something related to the Gulf.”
Wheat said the American military has been testing depleted uranium for over 40 years without ensuring that American soldiers know how to handle this new weapons system. Wheat claims the military has never shown any interest in his shrapnel and tells him his health problems are due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They’re not denying that I was hit by friendly fire, but they are denying I was hit by depleted uranium,” Wheat said.
Tom Delahanty, DAV Chapter 24 Commander in Socorro, said Wheat’s situation is similar to his own experience with the government recognizing the health consequences of his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
“From the Gulf War to the Iraqi War, soldiers have been exposed to different things, different weapons, than the World War II and Vietnam vets were,” Delahanty said.
Delahanty related Wheat’s condition to depleted uranium testing at EMRTC.
“They’ve just discovered that the levels of uranium from our wells are above drinking water standards for Socorro,” he said. “If there’s uranium in our water, where else could it be coming from, but from New Mexico Tech?”
Following Wheat’s talk, Army veteran, Socorro native Demacio Lopez measured the levels of radiation in the shrapnel Wheat said came from his shoulder wound months after he returned from Iraq. He keeps the shrapnel in a plastic film canister. Lopez is an activist who focuses his efforts on exposing the dangers of depleted uranium.
“When they took the shrapnel out of me, I asked if I could have it as a souvenir,” Wheat said. “They told me they lost them. This shrapnel was still embedded in my shoulder, and was expelled naturally.”
According to the readings conducted by Lopez, the level of radioactivity in the small bits of metal was 12 times higher than normal.
Delahanty said one of the DAV’s main purposes was to inform vets and their families on what affects them.
“We try to be a spokesman for veterans. Support their rights and educate them on whatever benefits are available to them,” Delahanty said.
Jay Santillanes, Utilities Director for the city of Socorro, said the uranium in one of the city’s wells is naturally occurring and is not depleted uranium.
“The Olsen well is the one with the higher levels, and that one will go off line permanently when the new well goes on line,” Santillanes said. “It was pretty close to the new EPA upper limit of safe drinking water. Like the arsenic content, the uranium levels in the Olsen well have always been about the same. It’s just that the EPA changed the limits.”
© 2006 Mountain Mail Socorro, New Mexico.