Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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May 2006

Straw: DU less dangerous than your household smoke detector
Nibby Loses DU Poisoning Claim at High Court
Nukewatch Activists Imprisoned
International News
Campaign News

Straw: DU less dangerous than your household smoke detector

As readers of CADU News may recall, on the 17th November 2005, the European Parliament issued, for the third time, a call for a moratorium on the use of so-called "depleted" uranium munitions.

Following this resolution, CADU contacted the now ex-UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (who has been replaced by Margaret Beckett) to ask whether he would be using his seat on the European Council of Ministers to back the moratorium. After they lost our original letter, we finally heard back from the Foreign Office last month. In a move that will surprise no one, the UK have no plans whatsoever to see their use of DU weapons limited by a continental democratic consensus.

Predictably, they began their gambit with the news that: "DU is less dangerous than the americium in your household smoke detector." Even more predictably they failed to address the fact that americium - a very potent source of both alpha and gamma radiation - is rarely finely powdered and released over foreign battlefields and cities.

They then trotted out the usual argument that a raft of DU reports have found that 'DU is harmless'. Once again they failed to recognise that the Royal Society report did not take into account the novel effects of internal radioactive emitters; that the World Health Organisation's approach to radioactive environmental hazards has been crippled by interference from member states and that UNEP have so far been unable to complete any post-conflict assessments in Iraq. UNEP are also on record for pointing out that: "the intensive use of DU weapons has likely caused environmental contamination of as yet unknown levels or consequences."

The letter continued with the news that the Ministry of Defence are busy informing Iraqi civilians that they have nothing to fear from DU. Oddly, and in the same paragraph, they explain that they are also busy picking up any stray pieces of DU penetrators along with other 'dangerous remnants of conflict'.

Interestingly, they go on to state, completely unprompted by us, that: "In Afghanistan, the inexplicable surges in various childhood cancers is not due to residual radioactivity left by depleted uranium, as neither the US nor UK expended rounds." Although we suspect that DU may have been used in Afghanistan by NATO forces, we are yet to see any hard proof. Although a letter regarding the transportof DU weapons by the US DoD has recently landed in our inbox which mentions Afghanistan. We are currently investigating this further. Understandably we have asked the Foreign Office to expand on this statement and as ever we will keep you posted on developments.

After US Secretary of State Condi Rice's visit to the north west of England last month, some possible clues as to the reasons behind Jack Straw's dismissal of the DU issue came to light. Thanks to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, we were interested to learn that Labour Peer Lord Taylor of Blackburn has strong links to Ex-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (who is the MP for Blackburn). Indeed he contributed more than 25% of Straw's election expenses incurred during the 2001 general election. He also donated £2,000 to the Labour Party in May 2001. They claim it's just a coincidence that Lord Taylor, has been a consultant to the arms manufacturer BAE Systems since 1994, and that a subsidiary of BAE Systems manufacture DU weapons for the UK. They would undoubtedly also deny it had anything to do with the romantic tour around Blackburn's BAE Systems factory undertaken by Mr Straw and Dr Rice.

We are planning a full-scale lobby of UK MPs later this year and will tell you how you can help.

Nibby Loses DU Poisoning Claim at High Court

Ex-aerospace engineer Richard 'Nibby' David has lost his 10 year DU poisoning compensation battle against the arms manufacturer Honeywell.

The long-running case came to an end in March after Nibby's urine samples were found to be free of DU upon further testing by Prof Randall Parrish of Leicester University.

Prof Parrish had originally been called in to offer supporting evidence, but when he re-examined the samples that were originally tested on behalf of Asaf Durakovic of the Uranium Medical Research Council by DU researcher Pat Horan, he found them to be free of any traces of DU.

After the discovery, concerns were raised by Nibby as to whether the samples had been tampered with. They were originally confiscated from Pat Horan's lab at the University of Newfoundland when the university unexpectedly shut down her lab, apparently at the behest of the US Dept of Defense. He argued that there was no clear paper trail showing where the samples then went and whether they might have been interfered with before or after they turned up in the custody of the UK government. His concerns were dismissed by the presiding judge Mr Justice Walker.

That Nibby had DU in his body was fundamental to the case. Evidence of high levels of chromosome aberrations (10 times higher than those caused by hospital x-rays) were not sufficient proof of DU exposure according to the judge. Although they are a sign of exposure to ionising radiation they are not specific to DU.

Another fundamental part of his case was proving that the health problems he suffers from were a direct result of his exposure to DU. In court he was unable to prove this conclusively. Evidence from US activist Leuren Moret was dismissed by the judge. Her paper "Known Illness Inflicted by Internalisation of Depleted Uranium Particles" was found by the court to be too general and lacking epidemiological evidence to back up connections with DU exposure.

Throughout the case, he was David versus Goliath, having to support and fight the case himself, while Honeywell spared no expense with a nine-member professional legal team. The anti-DU community had high hopes riding on the case which, together with Kenny Duncan's Gulf War pension tribunal would have seen proof of DU poisoning backed by UK law.

Nibby worked for Normalair Garrett, now owned by the US company Honeywell, from 1985 to 1995. He suffers from severe illnesses, which he believed he contracted on the work floor, handling aircraft components containing DU.

Dr. W. Hoffman of the Bremen Institute for Prevention, Research and Social Medicine, carried out the original tests which proved Nibby to have an increased rate of dicentric and ring chromosome mutations.

Nukewatch Activists Imprisoned

CADU were saddened to hear that some of our friends at the US group Nukewatch had been arrested and imprisoned for trespass following an action at the US Army's notorious School of the Americas (SOA). Nukewatch are renowned for their actions at the US DU weapon manufacturer Alliant Tech Systems and many of them have faced prosecutors as a result.

The SOA trains soldiers and police forces from Latin America and its graduates have gone on to commit some of the Western hemisphere's worst human rights abuses over the last 50 years. SOA graduates killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador; undertook the theft of babies from Argentina's 'disappeared' and carried out civilian massacres in El Salvador.

Training manuals from the SOA show that it was teaching torture methods, many of which are now being used by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a display of blistering hypocrisy, the judgments were handed down a week after a US military jury decided not to jail a US Army interrogator who was found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of an Iraqi prisoner.

We wish all those who have been unjustly incarcerated for highlighting US barbarity well, and keep up the good work.

International News


New legislation: after years of effort, including speeches, interviews, news conferences, working with groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility, the US House of Representatives has passed legislation that includes an amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-D) ordering a comprehensive study on the possible health effects from exposure to depleted uranium on U.S. soldiers and their children.
"As long and winding as the road has been to get where we are today, this is only the beginning - but this is a great day because we have taken the first step to defend the U.S. soldiers who protect and defend us," McDermott said.

Shortly after passage, Rep. McDermott received a letter from James King, the national executive director of AMVETS, the American Veterans organization: "This is a very important issue for AMVETS and its membership. Our ultimate goal is to provide atomic veterans with the tools necessary to file a claim and be considered for due compensation. Your amendment will help begin this process. "Again, thank you for your amendment and your support of veterans and their families."

Rep. McDermott has spent several years working to get the House to study DU: "For me, this is a personal, not political, quest. My professional life turned from medicine to politics after my service in the U.S. Navy during the 1960s, when I treated combat soldiers returning from Vietnam.

"Back then, the Pentagon denied that Agent Orange posed any danger to U.S. soldiers who were exposed. Decades later, the truth finally emerged. Agent Orange harmed our soldiers. It made thousands sick and some died. During all those years of denial, we stood by and did nothing while soldiers suffered. "If DU poses no danger, we need to prove it with statistically valid, and independent scientific studies. If DU harms our soldiers, we all need to know it, and act quickly as any doctor would, to use all of our power to heal the sick. We owe our soldiers a full measure of the truth, wherever that leads us."
The amendment to undertake a comprehensive study of possible health effects to soldiers from exposure to depleted uranium was contained in the Department of Defense Authorisation Bill.

However, as has been shown by the UK Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, the devil will be in the detail. While the move is broadly welcomed as a step in the right direction, it remains the civilians on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere who are most in need of independent, rigorous testing and health surveys.

New weapons: meanwhile, the US Army has placed a US$38 million order with the arms manufacturer Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for a new type of 120-mm DU ammunition for its main battle tank.

The follow-on contract announced by ATK extends the original contract for M829A3 tank rounds and brings the total value of the rounds ordered in 2006 up to US$77 million. Once the new pact is completed, ATK will have delivered 35,000 M829A3 rounds to the military.

ATK claims that the price is worth it because it gives the U.S. M1A1 and A2 Abrams tanks unmatched punch "designed to ensure that U.S. armoured forces maintain battlefield supremacy."

Based on a depleted-uranium penetrator, the West Virginia-produced round is billed as the most advanced armour-piercing kinetic-energy ordnance available. "Its state-of-the-art composite sabot, propellant, and penetrator technologies give it outstanding accuracy and lethality," ATK said.

The M829A3 specifications show that the 22.3-kilogram round uses 8 kilograms of solid propellent to attain a muzzle velocity of 1,555 meters per second. While the velocity is not as fast as other U.S. 120-mm rounds, the 10kg projectile is heavier than the others.

ATK are renowned for their contempt of international law and produce some of the most dangerous weapons available. Their landmines, cluster munitions and DU shells will be causing post-conflict hazards for civilians for years to come.


The Italian parliamentary commission for investigating the effects of depleted uranium has finally published and voted on its conclusions. The final report was approved with eight votes in favour, five abstentions and none against.

The Italian Parliament had stopped its activity because of the elections and tensions on the committee were running high. The majority of its members were from Berlusconi's Forza party, a fact which made many doubt its independence. There was also shock that any agreement had been reached.

DU was found "not directly responsible" for the deaths and cancers of Italian Balkan war veterans, (44 dead so far, and more than 300 with cancer). But it concluded that there may be an indirect role for DU, through the production of nanoparticles.

According to the commission, only soldiers who were directly exposed to DU bombings should face a significant risk of illness. However, the Italian soldiers were deployed much later leading them to conclude that environmental pollution created by the bombings could have been another indirect cause.

As with Gulf War veterans, vaccinations were also blamed for the health problems. Some old medicines, such as Neotif, had been blamed for this, in spite of the fact that none of the dead soldiers received these kinds of vaccines.

The Italian MoD failed to give sufficient information on the roles and deployment of soldiers. This has made it difficult to develop accurate statistical and epidemiological evidence on their exposure levels. The MoD and arms companies were also accused of not supplying complete information when the committee investigated health problems around firing ranges.

Activists believe the report was passed because it offered increased compensation to veterans - a key part of the electorate. For the first time ill soldiers will receive compensation that had previously been restricted only to the families of the dead.


Australia's fourth uranium mine is on the brink of going ahead, with the Federal Government arguing that this intensifies pressure on the Labor government's no-new-mines policy.
Australia has 30 per cent of the world's known recoverable uranium reserves, the bulk of this being in South Australia. Two of the three operating uranium mines are in SA - Olympic Dam and Beverley - with the other being Ranger in the Northern Territory. A green light for Honeymoon's operation, combined with the planned AU$5bn expansion of Olympic Dam, would cement SA's position as a uranium mining hotspot and lead to huge environmental pressures.

With growing expectation of a change in Labor policy next year, resource companies told an Adelaide conference in April that there could be at least another three new uranium mines operating in SA within the next six years. The Honeymoon deposit, discovered in 1972, is about 75km north-west of Broken Hill, 30km inside SA.

An expectation of a growth in nuclear power has meant that the price of uranium oxide, crucial in the production of nuclear power, has shot through the roof. From about $10/lb several years ago, uranium oxide now costs about $38/lb. It is suspected that this will rise beyond $100/lb, in the near future.

Over the next decade, US utilities will on average need to buy 1633 tonnes of uranium oxide per year to keep their nuclear power plants running.

The result of the planned global expansion of nuclear power will be a massive growth in the volume of waste DU being stored across the world - particularly in the US and China. Expensive and hazardous to store, this will increase the pressure to dispose of waste DU through other means, including DU weapons.

Australia is currently examining the possibility of selling uranium to India: a country outside of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Increased sales to China are also on the cards.

Campaign News

The unforeseen delay in producing this issue is due to CADU taking over the internal coordination of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. We have been busy developing a raft of new material for their website and planning this year's lobbying programme.

We still believe that a new treaty on DU is the best way of moving forward with the issue. Indeed, a reminder that lobbying does work came last month when it was revealed that ICBUW lobbying undertaken by Belgian members led directly to the third European Parliament vote on a DU moratorium that we reported on last issue.

Work is now underway for a further session of lobbying at the UN in the Autumn. CADU are also planning a lobby of UK MPs to follow up on the EP resolution.

Before the Autumn lobbying programme begins and with the help of several generous donations, we will be attending the 3rd annual ICBUW conference in Hiroshima in August. More information on the conference can be found at

Trouble at the Top

We would obviously like to take a moment to welcome the new Defence Minister Des Browne MP to his post. A loyal Blairite, since 1997 he has backed every New Labour bill that has crossed his desk. With this in mind we are not holding out much hope of a radical change in direction in the UK government's policy on DU weapons.

And it is goodbye to Jack Straw, who discovered that it is dangerous to air your personal views in politics, apparently Straw had to leave the Foreign Office for his 'outrageous' views on Iran. It seems that neither Tony nor the US was overly pleased with his contention that bombing Iran would not be helpful to world peace and Middle East stability.

Epidemiological Survey

We have had the first report from the ICBUW and IPPNW sponsored epidemiological survey in Basra. Following the first 'summer school' in Jordan last year, where Iraqi health professionals met with European epidemiologists and other specialists, a second meeting was arranged in Germany.

They have found that the main priority in Basra is to establish a reliable cancer registry, which can then act as a solid database for a subsequent epidemiological and environmental health analysis. They have made great steps towards setting it up during the last year. Following the Amman Summer School, doctors and researchers from Basra established a project team to improve patient care, case detection and registration. They will also map cases and identify possible risk factors and possible environmental pollutants, especially focusing on DU.

They are now summarising and tidying the raw data on cancer and haematological malignancies (mainly leukemia) from their main three sources in the city.

So far it seems that breast cancer, lymphomas and some other cancers have clearly been increasing. There are also some kinds of cancers, such as liver cancer, which have decreased or have remained stable during the past ten years.

A formal paper on their work so far will be submitted to a journal later this year and a presentation made at the ICBUW conference in August.

New Research

Several papers have recently been published on uranium's chemical toxicity. Much of the anti-DU community's focus has been on DU's radioactive hazards but the links between chemical toxicity and ill health arer growing stronger all the time. There is also evidence that the two can have a synergistic effect, radically increasing the amount of damage caused to dividing cells and DNA.

Environmental Health Perspectives published a link between DU and immune system damage that showed high levels of uranium-induced damage to mouse white blood cells; worryingly mice have a more robust immune system than humans. Meanwhile Molecular Carcinogenesis reported that uranium compounds can cause direct DNA damage in Chinese hamster cells by methods other than the widely known effects of free radicals and radiological attack.

A Word From Our Coordinator

We would like to thank everyone very much who has donated to the work of CADU. We do need the help more than ever. During the last year, as you can see from the newsletter, we have made enormous progress. One very significant point we learnt recently was that the European Parliamentarians in passing their Resolution for a moratorium leading to a ban on DU munitions had been persuaded by ICBUW conferences and lobbying. So we need to continue that work. Also now from the office at CADU we are carrying out the administrative work for ICBUW. So if you can give us an extra donation, it will certainly be put to good use for more briefing materials, for more resources, for more activity. And if you have any queries, do get in touch.

Rae Street

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