Sunday, April 24, 2005

DU blues

After a heated conversation with a friend over my statement that anti-war groups were greatly exaggerating the effects of Depleted Uranium (DU) use by the US military in Iraq, I did some research. The information dump is below for whatever use you can have, but first, my conclusions:

1. It's not safe.
2. The war opponents have greatly exaggerated its danger.
3. It's probably a minor danger compared to say, lack of clean water due to infrastructure damage in Iraq.
4. DU used in weaponry needs to be cleaned up at least to some extent, and people need to be kept away from hot locations.
5. The US has done virtually nothing to clean up DU sites in Iraq, or even to warn people to keep their children away from blown-up tanks covered in DU dust.
6. Once again, our post-war Iraq management lies in the overlapping area between evil indifference and mind-numbing stupidity. I don't know or care which is the cause here.
7. The US should probably stop using DU in weapons, with the possible exception of anti-tank weapons. Use of DU in armoring US military vehicles is fine.

Info dump below:

From the World Health Organization:

"Exposure to uranium and depleted uranium

* Under most circumstances, use of DU will make a
negligible contribution to the overall natural
background levels of uranium in the environment.
Probably the greatest potential for DU exposure will
follow conflict where DU munitions are used.
* A recent United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) report giving field measurements taken around
selected impact sites in Kosovo (Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia) indicates that contamination by DU in the
environment was localized to a few tens of metres
around impact sites. Contamination by DU dusts of
local vegetation and water supplies was found to be
extremely low. Thus, the probability of significant
exposure to local populations was considered to be
very low.
* A UN expert team reported in November 2002 that
they found traces of DU in three locations among 14
sites investigated in Bosnia following NATO airstrikes
in 1995. A full report is expected to be published by
UNEP in March 2003."

good collection of links here:

with this linked quote:

"But DU health concerns are very often wrapped up in
politics. Saddam Hussein's regime blamed DU used in
1991 for causing a spike in the cancer rate and birth
defects in southern Iraq.

And the Pentagon often overstates its case - in terms
of DU effectiveness on the battlefield, or declaring
the absence of health problems, according to Dan
Fahey, an American veterans advocate who has monitored
the shrill arguments from both sides since the

"DU munitions are neither the benign wonder weapons
promoted by Pentagon propagandists nor the instruments
of genocide decried by hyperbolic anti-DU activists,"
Mr. Fahey writes in a March report, called "Science or
Science Fiction: Facts, Myth and Propaganda in the
Debate Over DU Weapons."



BBC News Online environment correspondent Alex Kirby
says scientists disagree about the ability of DU to
cause the horrific problems that have been reported.

The World Health Organisation recommends cleaning
areas with high concentrations of radioactive

"There is real controversy, and real uncertainty," he

There have also been various health warnings. A 1995
report from the US Army Environmental Policy
Institute, for example, said: "If DU enters the body,
it has the potential to generate significant medical

Alex Kirby says the Pentagon claim that criticisms of
DU come only from Iraq and "other countries that are
not friendly to the US" is demonstrably untrue.

"To sum up, I guess the Iraqis have got much worse
things than DU to worry about in the immediate future,
and any risk to environment and health over the longer
term remains unproven and perhaps circumstantial.

"But that does not mean the risk is proven not to


New Scientist:

During the Gulf war in 1991, the US and Britain fired
an estimated 350 tonnes of DU at Iraqi tanks, a figure
likely to be matched in the course of the current
conflict. In the years since then, doctors in southern
Iraq have reported a marked increase in cancers and
birth defects, and suspicion has grown that they were
caused by DU contamination from tank battles on
farmland west of Basra.

As the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence point out,
this claim has not been substantiated. Iraq did not
allow the World Health Organization to carry out an
independent assessment.
(includes more back and forth)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.