Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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The Royal Society Debacle

Those who have been readers of CADU News for a while will know that CADU has always been very critical of the Royal Society reports on DU that were brought out in 2001 and 2002. (Full scientific responses can be found on our website to both reports). The basis of our criticisms stems from the fact that while the reports say very serious health damage can be caused by DU, including renal, respiratory and DNA damage, that DU presents a long term danger to civilians, that future monitoring should take place and that many more studies need to be undertaken because there are so many gaps in our knowledge, they also jump to the conclusion that battlefield exposures would be generally too low to have "adverse effects" on organs.

By emphasising that they thought doses would be too low to cause widespread harm while at the same time admitting they had incomplete data to draw conclusions they left themselves wide-open to misinterpretation. The British Government exploited this weakness in the reports for all they were worth; often quoting in letters to CADU supporters that the Royal Society reports showed that there was no scientific evidence that DU presented a health risk.

It seems that the Royal Society has been gradually growing more disturbed at the way that the Government has been misusing their work, especially after they ignored a warning before fighting began that DU is not safe, from Professor Brian Spratt, Chair of the Royal Society working group on depleted uranium. The final straw came when the Pentagon, obviously taking the British Government's lead, also claimed that the Royal Society said that DU was harmless. Professor Spratt was reportedly "furious" at this and has since been very vocal against the use of DU in Iraq. He has publicly stated that "DU is radioactive and it's toxic", that it presents a "short and long term" threat to the health of civilian populations and that it is "highly unsatisfactory to continue using DU without knowing people's exposure levels". He is quoted in the BBC as saying: "The Coalition needs to acknowledge that DU is a potential hazard and make inroads into tackling it by being open about where and how much has been deployed. He has called for the decontamination of Iraq, the testing of soldiers and field hospital staff, and the monitoring of water and milk supplies.

This is a monumental embarrassment to the Government as it robs them of their chief backup in claiming DU to be harmless and it exposes Defence Minister Geoff Hoon's limited understanding of the truth. Even last week, after the Royal Society had spoken out, the Minister was still saying DU has no adverse health effects. Does he know something the Royal Society does not? Or is he just clinging desperately to past propoganda to cover up the Government's illegal actions? As for the Royal Society, we are thankful to Professor Spratt for having the moral courage to speak out and correct past mistakes.
(The original reports can be found at:

The United Nations Environmental Programme has also spoken out strongly and has called for scientific studies and decontamination to begin. They claim research at sites hit by DU is a "scientific priority" and that "the intensive use of DU weapons has likely caused environmental contamination of as yet unknown levels or consequences." They have stressed the need for an immediate public awareness raising campaign into the dangers of DU to prevent unnecessary exposures.

UNEP has said they will do the study into DU with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and are waiting to go into Iraq. They have already carried out a desk study into Iraq's environment. Researcher Dai Williams has made a number of important points in relation to any UNEP study including that, uranium testing must start without delay especially in urban areas, targets must include known and suspected uranium weapons, that all types of uranium must be looked for and that air radiation monitoring is required throughout the Gulf region. David Nabarro of the WHO, has said "We've done quite a lot of work on depleted uranium, and we just can't be sure of its effects for people close to exploding munitions or for the people who handle it." With such international institutions being openly critical of the British and US use of DU their arrogant and dangerous stance on the issue is looking embarrassingly exposed.

Read more articles about The Health Effects of Depleted Uranium

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003