Campaign Against Depleted Uranium


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CADU NEWS 7
Spring 2001

Contents
1) WHO and DU
2) Pakistan has joined DU producing nations
3) Chernobyl Research on Birth Mutations
4) People Power
5) Royal Society Report
6) Depleted Uranium in Iraq and Gulf War Veterans
7) Potential Health Effects
8) Manufacturing in Britain
9) Testing in Britain
10) The Use of Uranium in Munitions & Industry at the European Parliament
11) Response To The Royal Society Report On The Health Hazards Of Depleted Uranium (DU) Munitions

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WHO and DU

Several countries pressed the World Health Organization on Monday to urgently determine whether depleted uranium used in NATO ammunition in the Persian Gulf and Balkans conflicts could have made soldiers and civilians sick.At the annual World Health Assembly, the first gathering of health ministers since the use of themunitions sparked a health scare across Europe earlier this year, Iraq said it has new evidence that a recent increase in cancers and birth defects among its people is linked to the weapons.

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Pakistan has joined DU producing nations
Insider news on the arms race at Jane's Land Forces,
9 May 2001: Available at URL:
http://www.janes.com/defence/land_forces/news/

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Chernobyl Research on Birth Mutations

Research published by the Royal Society shows an ‘unexpectedly high’ mutation rate among the children of liquidators who worked on the Chernobyl nuclear reactor following the 86 explosion. The researchers state that this means that a ‘significant proportion of the world’s population doing jobs where even low-level radiation is present are exposing unborn children to increased risk’.
(Paul Brown Guardian 8.5.01)

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People Power

Protesters blocked the United States navy bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques on April 25th, after they occupied the range and vowed to act as human shields. Vieques mayor was one of the first into the restricted zone. “You can capture and arrest me that’s for sure. But when you do, you should understand that you will have to jail the mayor of Vieques. I have no intention of defending myself in court, nor paying bail to win my release.”
The US has used Vieques, a small island with about 9,000 residents as a bombing range, including the testing of DU weapons, for more than 50 years and in 1999 an islander was killed during the bombing. Figures compiled 1990-94 show that the islanders are 27% more likely to get cancer than those on the mainland of Puerto Rica. It is estimated that since then the rate has risen to 52%. The US military have water for their own use piped over from the mainland to avoid contamination. For the Puerto Ricans this is a colonial struggle against US imperialism. Do send messages of solidarity.

Contact: Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques P.O. Box 1424 Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765 Tel. (787) 741-0716 E mail: bieke@coqui.net

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Royal Society Report

This was a report on the radiological effects of DU munitions; the report on chemical toxicity will be published later this year. The Report leaves many questions unanswered but Professor Spratt did acknowledge that governments have a responsibility to understand the ‘possible risks to soldiers and civilians’ of the weapons they use. It does not seem to have advanced the understanding, but has asked for more studies to be carried out.
http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/policy/du.htm

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Depleted Uranium in Iraq and Gulf War Veterans

In the areas where depleted uranium was used in Southern Iraq, a number of serious health problems have emerged among both soldiers and civilians.
For instance, there has been a 66% increase in leukaemias and cancers in Southern Iraq.  There has also been a marked increase in the numbers of children born with birth malformations, with horrific reports of 3 children in one family being born with severe congenital malformations.

Maggie O'Kane, Felicity Arbuthnot, and journalists working with Desert Concerns, have all reported on the health crisis in Southern Iraq.  The former reported a Dr Zenad Mohammed, from a hospital in Basra, herself pregnant, who was so terrified of giving birth to a severely malformed child, that she was doing her own monitoring of the problem. Her notes begin "In August we had three babies born with no head.  Four had abnormally large heads.  In September we had six with no heads, none with large heads and two with short limbs.  In October, one with no head, four with big heads and four with deformed limbs or other types of deformities."

 

Photograph of deformed baby

 

Severe case of hydrocephalus with defects of the cerebral nerves and debility, seen in Southern Iraq

photo: Siegwart-Horst Günthor

 

There are also large numbers of soldiers who served in the Gulf with Allied forces and in the Iraqi army, who are now suffering from mysterious illnesses - often referred to as Gulf War syndrome.  Many of these illnesses reflect those seen among Iraqi children and civilians.  For example, of the 697,000 US troops who served in the Gulf, over 90,000 have reported medical problems. Symptoms include respiratory, liver, and kidney dysfunction, memory loss, headaches, fever, low blood pressure. There are also defects reported among their newborn children.  In a veterans community in Mississippi, 67% of the children were born with malformations.


UK and US Gulf War veterans have tested positive for depleted uranium poisoning, although the governments of both countries have at every turn denied proper independent testing for all veterans.


For more information on depleted uranium and Gulf War Veterans see the National Gulf War Resource Centre's information at http://www.ngwrc.org/Dulink/du_link.htm or the Military Toxics Project: http://www.miltoxproj.org

 

 

Photo of a severley disfigured Iraqi soldier

 

Severly injured Iraqi soldier, the lesions in his face are due to radiation

Photo: Siegwart-Horst Günthor

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Potential Health Effects

In the areas where depleted uranium was used in southern Iraq, a number of serious health problems have emerged among both soldiers and civilians.

For instance, there has been a 66% increase in leukaemias and cancers in southern Iraq.  There has also been a marked increase in the numbers of children born with birth malformations, with horrific reports of 3 children in one family being born with severe congenital malformations.

There are also large numbers of soldiers who served in the Gulf with Allied forces and in the Iraqi army, who are now suffering from mysterious illnesses - often referred to as Gulf War syndrome.  Many of these illnesses reflect those seen among Iraqi children and civilians.  For example, of the 697,000 US troops who served in the Gulf, over 90,000 have reported medical problems. There are also defects reported among their newborn children.  In a veterans community in Mississippi, 67% of the children were born with malformations.

The area of southern Scotland used to test depleted uranium weapons has the highest rate of childhood leukaemia in Scotland.  The residents of the flats in Amsterdam into which the El Al jet crashed in 1992 have also reported mysterious illnesses (the jet had depleted uranium counterweights - see CADU News issue 3).


However, although we can point to these facts and statistics in relation to the use of depleted uranium, it is impossible to prove a causal link.  Just as it is impossible for scientists to prove a causal link between the leukaemia clusters around Sellafield nuclear power station, and radioactivity released from the plant.  It is not scientifically possible to categorically state that depleted uranium has caused any particular illness in any person - certainly, in relation to the Gulf War, there were many other 'compounding' factors - other toxics present which could be linked to illnesses.

What we can do though, is examine the toxic and radioactive properties of depleted uranium, and the potential adverse effects resulting from these - and place this alongside reported illnesses where depleted uranium has been used.


Like other heavy metals, depleted uranium is chemically toxic: it causes chemical poisoning of the body, particularly to kidneys and tubules.

However, it is its radiological properties which cause the most concern. On impact, depleted uranium burns and oxidises to form tiny ceramic aerosol particles.  These particles are between 1 and 5 microns in size, which means they are easily breathed in. As they are ceramicised depleted uranium, they are insoluble - they do not dissolve in bodily fluids, and so are not easily flushed through the body and may remain lodged in the lungs or other organs for years.  It is also important to note that these particles can be carried in air, by wind, or can be disturbed by movement of vehicles or people.  Tests have shown they can be carried for at least 26 miles.

The Ministry of Defence, government scientists, among others, claim that as depleted uranium is only of low level radioactivity, it is not particularly dangerous.  In fact, it is this type of thinking which is dangerous, as they use a radioactive model based on the effects of gamma and beta radiation, external to the body.

Depleted uranium, however,  is an alpha particle emitter. Of all the types of radiation alpha particles when released internally (ie breathed in) are the most dangerous to living cells. They are the biggest and most heavy of the three types of radiation. Because they can be stopped by a piece of paper they are sometimes considered less dangerous than beta (which need a centimetre of aluminium to stop it.) or gamma (which need several feet of lead to stop it), but that is only when they are outside of the body.  As the Low Level Radiation Campaign and other scientists have proved, an alpha source next to living tissue can severely damage the DNA in the nucleus of the cell, cause mutations and later cancers. On its way from the lungs to the bladder the depleted uranium spends time in the blood and could get lodged in a capillary or tissue anywhere in the body and cause cancer there. This is why depleted uranium is so dangerous if it is in the body: particularly if it stays there for many years.

Government scientists claim that the radioactivity dose received from inhaling depleted uranium would not exceed the minimum radiation dose permitted.  However, this is because they take the effects of alpha particles in one small section of body tissue, and average the harm out over the entire body.  Yet as shown above, the damage to this small part can lead to cancers and mutations affecting the whole body.

The expected health effects of chronic lung burdens of depleted uranium include fibrosis of the irradiated lung tissue, lung cancer, eventual entry of depleted uranium into blood over subsequent years, with effects on liver and kidney, together with incorporation of depleted uranium into bone.  When in bone, the uranium can irradiate the sensitive stem cells which form the white blood cells, especially the monocytes.  Clinical manifestations of this toxicity include kidney and liver damage, anaemia, depressed cellular immune system and general heavy metal poisoning.  Uranium can pass the placenta causing congenital malformation and can be carried to the infant in mothers milk. It can damage the ovum and sperm causing genetic damage.

 

Therefore, when we look at the properties of depleted uranium, the effects it could have on the body, and compare this with the medical problems among depleted uranium workers, Gulf veterans, Iraqi civilians and so on, we cannot rule out depleted uranium as one of the causes.

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Manufacturing in Britain

The MET Report 1993 (MET, 601 Holloway Rd, London, N19 4DJ) says that 'Manufacturing of depleted uranium shells probably takes place at Radway Green near Crewe, with development at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks in Kent.  depleted uranium has also been imported from the United States to Royal Ordnance factories at Wolverhampton and Chorley in Lancashire. The hazards are unknown, but in the US a depleted uranium shell manufacturer was forced to close down after radioactive particles were discovered up to 26 miles from the factory. 

The Royal Ordnance factory is currently non-operational after a serious fire involving depleted uranium in February 1999.  West Midlands CND (wmcnd@gn.apc.org) have researched the incident thoroughly - their report is featured in cadu news issue 3

CADU is currently researching the manufacture and use of depleted uranium in Britain, to facilitate more focused campaigning.There is a list of companies who have patents to use DU here.

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Testing in Britain

The risks of Depleted Uranium are not only present during wars, or far-off conflicts, but affect us much closer to home, where the weapons are manufactured and tested.

Regular test-firing of depleted uranium shells started in 1980 at Eskmeals in Cumbria and at the Ministry of Defence's firing range at Dundrennan, near Kirkcudbright in South-west Scotland in 1981. Firing of depleted uranium by the MoD has also occurred at West Freugh near Stranraer, White Sands, New Mexico, Aberdeen, Maryland in the United States, and Gramat in France. In June 1993 the MoD, answering a parliamentary question, in effect denied that there was any problem with 'only very low levels of radioactivity' detected. But when radiation reports were made public (with some excisions) in July these revealed serious contamination outside the controlled area at Eskmeals, and grass and soil samples at Kirkcudbright were 'well above acceptable limits'. The firing result in the accumulation of radioactive waste at these sites, currently 91 cubic metres at Eskmeals estimated to rise to 468 cubic metres by 2030. At Kirkcudbright there is considered to be no nuclear waste as depleted uranium shells are fired into the Solway Firth.

At Kirkcudbright a misfiring on 13 November 1989 involved a depleted uranium shell exploding into fragments on hitting a stone bank. This resulted in a local concentration of 1,692 mg/kg well exceeding the MoD's normal limit of 72 mg/kg and upper limit of 300 mg/kg. Presumably, in investigating this incident, military personnel inspected the site of impact and were exposed to this concentration. Depending on wind and weather conditions, local populations in Britain may be exposed to unknown concentrations over prolonged periods.


For a report on the potential testing of depleted uranium off Cape Wrath in Scotland, see CADU News 3.

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The Use of Uranium in Munitions & Industry at the European Parliament

By Raymond A.Bristow
27th October 2000

On 25th October 2000 the issue of the use of Uranium in Munitions & Industry was finally taken to the European Parliament Strasbourg. I express a special note of thanks to 'Nibby' (Mr Richard David, DU Poisoned through exposure in industry), instrumental in organising the event and also to Graham Watson MEP who hosted and chaired it.

At a meeting on the evening before the event, Watson stated that he had come under Governmental pressure not to host and pursue this issue, which only resulted in him becoming more determined. He opened the presentation in parliament, and then part of a French TV Documentary by Martin Meissonnier was shown to give an overview on the use of Radioactive Waste in Munitions and Industry. Following this, Mary Ripley-Gruzman gave a talk about the work of the Medical Uranium Project (MUP). She presented scientific facts with slides displaying the results presented by Prof. Durakovic at the Paris Scientific meeting held a few weeks ago. She stated that the MUP would work with and share information with any establishment in any of the European countries but this would involve the MUP protocols and overall control. (they will only carry out Science & Research for the good and benefit of the victims of poisoning with Nuclear Waste and not help in any Official cover up)

'Nibby' David followed Mary and he spoke about the 'secrecy' of the use of Radioactive Waste in industry. The next speaker was Damacio Lopez a seasoned anti DU campaigner. His home town in New Mexico is next to a Uranium Munitions testing range. The community has endured an extremely high level of health problems, with the signs and symptoms that ill Gulf War Veterans are suffering from and in addition the terrible birth defects and cancers. Damacio focused on the moral and legal aspects of the use of Uranium Munitions. He quoted the United Nations sub committee ruling where it declares such weapons are illegal.
In a question from the floor a Labour MEP claimed that the MoD had offered to test the 30
Veterans that had tested positive but none had come forward.

I replied with the following:
1. There was no need for the Veterans to be tested again as they and their Medical Practitioners had the results.
2. Is it not more important to test the thousands of ill Veterans whom the MoD accepts are ill but they don't know why?
3. One Veteran came forward and was tested, the result being no DU found. However the Veterans found this difficult to believe as this Veteran was highly positive. With a little investigation the Veterans identified that he had been tested for the presence of naturally occurring Uranium, so of course no DU had been found and incidentally the establishment concerned with the test confirmed that they did not have the facilities to test for DU.
4. I also referred to the reporting of the Paris Conference by Martin Meissonnier & Jonathon Carr-Brown and the MoD's Statement which was it is their duty to ensure that the Veterans get the best possible care. I pointed out that I had a letter from The Gulf Veterans Illness Unit that clearly states that the Unit and the MoD Medical Assessment Program is for Medical Assessment and advice and NOT care. Once again the MoD misled the Public, Veterans and Politicians.

At first we were a little disappointed with the attendance. However, Graham Watson MEP was very upbeat as those that did attend were very interested in the issue and were also very influential MEP's. Some of the MEP's stayed back for personal chats with us asking further questions expressing concern and a determination to know more. I was encouraged by Linda McAvan, Labour MEP for Yorkshire & Humberside (my area); she expressed great interest and said she had been following the issue on TV in the UK. So we came away very pleased with the day. Interviews were given to the French TV

This is just the beginning. Graham Watson needs much support. An excellent foundation has been laid. To take the cause further I propose that each person who is actively concerned with the use of DU should present this issue to their MEP and encourage others to do the same.

As the United Nations has no Law Enforcement capability then the countries that choose to ignore the illegality of DU Weapons then they will get away with its use. If the issue is actively pushed in the European Parliament we may (must as a goal) then get it referred to the European Courts of Justice. It is this court that can enforce the law of the UN upon Member Countries of the EU.

(The views expressed in this document are my own)
E-Mail: Ray.Bristow@Bigfoot.com

The NGWVA is now waiting for the European Parliament's response to the delegation. Shaun Rusling said: "We achieved everything we wanted to in bringing the whole compensation issue to the European Parliament's Justice and Human Rights Committee. The British government has failed to recognise our calls, and requests from the Royal British Legion, for an independent inquiry. When you look at it, 32 people have died from Creutzfeldt- Jakob's Disease and they have had a public inquiry. But 468 veterans have died of Gulf War Syndrome and their widows and families get nothing. There are servicemen out there without proper medical care and support. I am glad the Government has acted for the families and victims of new variant CJD, but we want action for the widows, families and veterans who are all victims of Gulf War Syndrome. Sadly, our members are dying now. That is the case we have made to Europe and hopefully the European Parliament will now add its powerful voice to our campaign for an independent public inquiry.”

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Response to the Royal Society Report on the Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium (DU) Munitions: Part 1

You can now read Malcolm Hooper's response on the CADU website. Read the response.

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Page last updated: 6th December 2002