Understanding the Dangers of Depleted Uranium Munitions

By Matthew Gooch

Lost in the abyss of media deception and misrepresentation that surrounds our war on “terror” is the salient fact that a long list of countries from all around the globe are actively waging chemical and nuclear warfare in the middle-east. DU is a very dense metal that is made when fissionable uranium is separated from natural uranium to manufacture nuclear bombs and reactor fuel. It remains radioactive for about 4.5 billion years.

The most obvious damage is caused by the presence of this DU in the soil. This can create up to a hundredfold increase in uranium levels in ground water, according to the U.N. Environmental proThe world is a businessgram. The less obvious and more deadly damage to people is done when the round is fired and hits its target. Uranium-238 is pyrophoric, meaning it combusts when in contact with air so DU shells are burning as they fly and upon impact, ~70% of the projectile burns up creating a plume of ceramic DU oxide particles. This plume contains extremely fine ceramic uranium dust that is spread by the wind, inhaled by people and animals, and absorbed by plants, animals, and into the human body. The small particles are carried across vast distances until the rain takes them to the soil and water becoming interwoven into our food chain and water supply.

The first use of DU in war was by Israel under U.S. supervision in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 against the Arabs nations. By 2003 the United States had a stockpile of over 450,000 tons of pure DU stockpiled and has sold DU to over 29 countries. The military has done extensive research and testing with DU at gunnery ranges and civilian labs under contracts during 1974-1999 and currently 42 states have DU contamination. This contamination comes from the manufacture, testing, and deployment of depleted uranium. Some of the most extensive testing was done over decades at four bombing and gunnery ranges in Fallon, Nevada where thousands of tones of DU were used. Coincidental or not this area also harbors the fasted growing leukemia cluster in the U.S.

DUIt’s as if the decisions to use DU again and again have been made with gross ignorance; in fact, the spring before the first Gulf War started in 1990 the military released a report on DU discussing that a large amount of DU dust could be inhaled by soldiers and civilians during and after combat. Infantry would receive the highest exposures leading to cancers and kidney problems. By 2000 DU had been used in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and many other places.

A study conducted by Dr. Asaf Durakovic, director of a private, non-profit, Uranium Medical Research Center in Canada did a study on veterans suffering typical Gulf War Syndrome and found DU in their urine nine years after the war. There are many other leading officials that have had their findings pushed aside such as those by Dr. Doug Rokke who was an Army health physicist assigned in 1991 to the command staff of the 12th Preventive Medicine Command and 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command headquarters. He was recalled to active duty 20 years after serving in Vietnam, from his research job with the University of Illinois Physics Department, and sent to the Gulf to take charge of the DU cleanup operation. Rokke said: “Verified adverse health effects from personal experience, physicians and from personal reports from individuals with known DU exposures include reactive airway disease, neurological abnormalities, kidney stones and chronic kidney pain, rashes, vision degradation and night vision losses, lymphoma, various forms of skin and organ cancer, neuropsychological disorders, uranium in semen, sexual dysfunction and birth defects in offspring.”

It’s not like there were only a few ten thousand pounds of DU used in conflicts, there are estimates of 50,000+ metric tons of DU used by the U.S. in conflicts between 1990 and 2004 alone and the United States military along with others still continue to use DU in munitions to this day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe amount of bombs dropped on Baghdad and Iraq is truly staggering at the height of the siege of Fallujah in the fall of 2004 Major Mike Sexton said this; “With a massive Marine air and ground offensive under way, ”a Marine press release said, “Marine close air support continues to put high-tech steel on target. Flying missions day and night for weeks, the fixed wing aircraft of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing are ensuring battlefield success on the front line.” Since the beginning of the war, the press release said, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped more than five hundred thousand tons of ordnance. “This number is likely to be much higher by the end of operations,” Major Mike Sexton also said. In the battle for Fallujah, more than seven hundred Americans were killed or wounded; U.S. officials did not release estimates of civilian dead. In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital in Iraq had 170 new babies, 24% of whom were dead within the first week, 75% of those babies were classified as deformed. In August 2002 there were 530 new born babies of whom ~1% was dead within the first seven days and only one birth defect was reported which was not classified as deformed. Doctors in Fallujah have also stated that, “a significant number of babies that do survive begin to develop severe disabilities at a later stage.”

“Which is worse, flash annihilation by nuclear explosions, or slow mutilation from low-level radiation, the result of radioactive contamination of the air, water and earth essential to life? Globally, we have been deceived about the health effects of radiation by bureaucratized governments informed by the military industrial complex and scientific power. In the past half-century, 1.3 billion people have been killed, maimed, and diseased by nuclear weapons and nuclear power.” ~ Leuren Moret – Berkeley, California June 2001

The use of DU munitions is clearly controversial and the defense industry needs to confront this issue in public light with independent research and overview. It is an example of how new, under tested, and toxic chemicals are being released into the ecosystem for the sake of security, resources, and politics. This is also a topic that I feel has been censored over the past decade as there has been a total media blackout on the topic of Deplete Uranium and its use as a weapon.


Iraq Solidarity News Magazine (Al-Thawra) 2010 http://www.thewe.cc/weplanet/news

Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium Larry Johnson. November 12, 2002 http://www.seattlepi.com/national/95178_du12.shtml

Birchall A, Clark M. (2001). “Depleted uranium.” March 2001. Retrieved June 20, 2003 from the National Radiological Protection Board web site, http://www.nrpb.org/publications/bulletin/archive/bulletin_229.pdf
Fahey D, “Science of science fiction.” (2003). March 12, 2003. Retrieved July 7, 2003 from http://www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/pdf/dumyths.pdf

UNEP, “Depleted uranium in Serbia and Montenegro,” Retrieved July 19, 2003 from http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/duserbiamont.pdf

            Ibid.  United Nations Environment Program, Post Conflict Assessment Unit. (2003). “Low-level DU contamination found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNEP calls for precaution.” Press Release, March 25, 2003. Retrieved July 19, 2003 from http://postconflict.unep.ch/pressbihdu25mar2003.htm

            Ibid   United Nations Environment Program, Post Conflict Assessment Unit. (2003). “Low-level DU contamination found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNEP calls for precaution.” Press Release, March 25, 2003. Retrieved July 19, 2003 from the UNEP web site http://postconflict.unep.ch/pressbihdu25mar2003.htm

            Ibid   United Nations Environment Program. (2002). “UNEP confirms low-level DU contamination in Serbia and Montenegro, calls for precaution.” Retrieved July 19, 2003 from http://postconflict.unep.ch/pressfrydusermar2002.htm

How much DU have they used? (2006). Karl Schwarz quoted from http://www.theperfectsystem.net/guest_articles/karlschwarz/ks_22106.htm  Retrieved on 10/12/2011 from http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=495.0

Finding sources on this topic is especially difficult, most studies are produced by RAND corporation (and militarily funded).