- Part 4 -

Laka Foundation, May 1999

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The next testing site
for Depleted Uranium weaponry

By Daniel Robicheau, Desert Concerns

During the Gulf War, munitions and armour made from depleted uranium (DU) were used for the first time in military action. Since they proved unmatchable in their armour piercing capacity and are very cheap, uranium waste, they became the weapon of choice. They were further used in Bosnia and presently in Yugoslavia.

The US military, like the British military, do not hide the fact that they use DU weapon systems. The US Army has the A-10 Thunderbolt II, nicknamed "the Warthog", responsible for most of the fired DU munitions during the Gulf War. They have the M1A1 Abrams tank and the new M1A2 Abrams tank, the Marines the M-60, the Navy the Phalanx missile. Many cruise missiles contains DU balance weights. The British have the Challenger tank. And now for their latest testing scenario for DU weapons systems in the Balkans, British Harriers can fire DU. The US F-16 has been modified to fire DU. The increasing number of US Apache helicopters deployed to the region can now fire DU rounds. Most of these weapons systems are now deployed in the neighbouring countries around Yugoslavia.

No, the use of DU weaponry is not being covered up. What is being covered up are the effects of DU on the health of people and their environments. The Clinical Chief of the Department of Nuclear Medicine of the US Veterans Administration, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, was terminated from his position after diagnosing DU contamination of some of the 24 sick US Gulf War Vets sent to him by the military soon after the war ended in 1991; two of the soldiers who were referred to him for observation later died from unknown causes. In December 1998, the homes of two British Gulf War Vets were raided by the Ministry of Defence Police and their computer equipment confiscated. The apparant object for the raid was a search for documents obtained by the Vets that showed that the Ministry of Defence was carrying out its own research into the effects of DU contamination of Gulf Vets which it did not want the general public know about.

Throughout 1998 and into 1999, Dr. Hari Sharma of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, conducted tests using new techniques for the presence of DU in Gulf Vets and found DU contamination in the urine of his subjects 8 years after the end of the war, contrary to the MoD and DoD'd assertion that DU passes through the body very quickly. And recently, representatives from the Defense Departments of five countries (England, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) coordinated their enquiries and jointly interviewed Sharma, intent on knowing what techniques he had used in testing for DU, his methodology of analysis, and findings.

In the Gulf more than a million rounds were fired, between 300-800 tons being consumed in 1991 alone. When a DU penetrator hits its target, it explodes and vaporises. From 10-70% burns up and forms micrometer-size uranium oxide particles that can be inhaled or ingested. The fall-out of uranium aerosol is virtually unlimited. In the fine sand of the Gulf, uranium micro-particles, because they are electrically charged attach themselves to the sand, and remain suspended in the air for very long periods. Wind storms will resuspend the settled particles and transport them to new locations far and wide. There is a noted massive rise in cancers in Saudi-Arabia, in most of the Emirates all the way to Bahrain. Incalculable collateral damage to veterans, civilians, and neighbouring countries, now and for all future generations is the result of using radioactive weapons. Nuclear explosions cause massive damage at the time, while radioactive weapons cause more prolonged devastation to humans and the environment for tens of years, or maybe till the end of time, since the half life of DU is the life of the solar system.

All over Iraq but especially in the South, there has been a sixfold rise in cancers of all kinds, but especially leukaemias and lymphomas. Birth defects from being a rarity have become so common that there can be three children in one family with birth defects. Plants and animals are also showing signs of genetic mutations. British and American veterans show very similar disorders.

In a veterans community in Mississippi, 67% of the children were born without eyes, ears, brain, thyroid and other organ malformations. In Bosnia after the NATO war, there was a massive rise of instant deaths for huge numbers of people in the war zone (acute radiation poisoning). Alterations in plant, animal and a horrendous rise of birth defects has been reported. Veterans with Gulf War Syndrome report symptons similar to the Iraqi and Bosnian groups, namely multiple organ failure, AIDS like syndrome with very low immunity. There are multiple causes from chemical and bacteriological pollutants in the war zone, but definitely DU with its radiological and chemical toxicity is one of the main culprits.

Knowing that DU on exposion forms insoluble particles of uranium oxixe that can be inhaled, the particles would lodge in the lung for long periods of time (depending on the biological half life). Uranium and its daughter products radiate the lung killing and mutating neighbouring cells. Some particles get washed into the blood, causing devastating effects all over the body but mainly to the reproductive system and the bone marrow (rapidly dividing cells). This results in the birth defects and the anaemias, leukaemias and immune deficience disorders.

We tested urine samples from 30 veterans from the USA, UK, Canada and Iraq. Their locations covers the whole of the ground war region. The samples were analysed for isotopic composition of uranium isotopes by the delayed neutron activation method and confirmed by surface ionization mass spectometry.

All those tested showed DU in their urine with values ranging between 3-18 micrograms for a 24 hour period. The values collorated positively with where they were located, whether their job entailed travelling between sites (more exposure) and how long they stayed in the Gulf. It also matches perfectly the morbidity and mortality picture.

Samples from the population of Baghdad and Basra were also tested. They also show the presence of DU in the urine over the whole geographical regions. The risk factor from exposure to the oxide inside the lungs depends on the biological half life (time tissues remain irradiated). The half life seems much longer that suggested by the DoD.

It is more likely 10 years or longer instead of the mentioned 500 days. Six to ten percent, ie. 36,000 of the 600,000 veterans exposed would succumb to fatal cancers. In Basra the percentage could be much higher since people are continuing to breath, drink and eat radio-active material. The risk factor could be 20% or even higher. The tests were carried out in three labs.

Contact: Desert Concerns

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