| News | Information
| Resources |
Affiliate | Action
| Links | Contact
CADU NEWS 23
Straw: DU less
dangerous than your household smoke detector
Nibby Loses DU Poisoning Claim at High Court
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"
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Jack Straw (who has been replaced by Margaret Beckett) to ask whether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
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.
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
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.
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.
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,"
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,"
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Subscribe to CADU News -
by affiliating to CADU
Affiliation rates (including a paper copy of CADU News four times a year)
are £8 per year (unwaged/student) £10 per year (waged) and
£30 (groups), but please consider donating more than this if possible.
Please send a cheque or a request for a standing order to:
CADU, Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick St, Manchester M4 7HR