BRIDGES TO PALESTINE
presents "Depleted Uranium in Iraq"
by; Damacio A. Lopez, Executive Director of IDUST
Widdi Reception Hall
Brooklyn, New York
March 22, 2001
P.O. Box 1688
Bernalillo, New Mexico 87004
The International Depleted Uranium Study Team (IDUST) is a Non-governmental organization of over 150 researchers, activists, soldiers and scientists from over 30 countries demanding an immediate stop to the use of depleted uranium (DU) in military weapons. The United States (US) military has admitted to using an overall total of 315 tons of DU solid-core ammunition fired from air and ground units during the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait.
What is Depleted Uranium? DU is the waste product left after natural uranium has gone through the enrichment process to separate the fissionable isotope U-235, which is used as fuel in nuclear reactors and to make nuclear weapons. The waste product "depleted uranium" or DU as it is sometimes called is a highly toxic heavy metal with a radioactive half-life of four and one-half billion years and has 60% the radioactivity of natural uranium which is pure uranium.
Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Military strategists claim that, the appeal of DU in weapons is its heavy weight and pyrophoric qualities, which cause it to burn like a cutting torch through steel when a DU penetrator strikes a hard target such as an armored tank. It is the pyrophoric quality that makes this material so devastating, the burning of DU creates radioactive dust of respirable size and thus it can be inhaled or ingested. Once in the body this radioactive and toxic material can have short and long term health effects, such as kidney problems, birth defects, neurological problems, cancers and death.
A 1991 report by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (AEC) stated that the tank ammunition alone used in Iraq during the Gulf war would contain over 50,000 pounds of DU solid-core ammunition and this was enough radioactive material to cause 500,000 potential deaths. Extensive health studies have been conducted by Iraqi medical scientists on DU health effects on soldiers and civilians, these studies have revealed an alarming increase of radiation related diseases since 1991, cancers have risen throughout the country from five to ten time higher then before the Gulf War. These health studies and environmental studies are available for peer review from IDUST. Over 1,000 tomahawk cruse missiles which have been reported to contain DU have been used on Iraq since 1991. Recalculation of how much DU has been used against Iraq needs to be done since DU has been used in other weapons against Iraq.
Where Did it All Begin? On October 30, 1943 the U.S. War Department proposed the "Use of Radioactive Materials as a Military Weapon, this 1974 declassified document to Brigadier General L. R. Groves emphasized two objectives against enemy personal. "1) As a terrain contaminating material, the radioactive product would be spread on the ground and would affect personnel. 2) As a gas warfare instrument, the material would be ground into particles of microscopic size to form dust and smoke and distributed by a ground-fired projectile, land vehicle, or aerial bombs. In this form it would be inhaled by personnel". The objective being to irradiate the "enemy" forces, the general population, flora and fauna. Today DU is been used as ammunition, casing for bombs, shielding on tanks, counter weights/nose cone and ground penatrators on missiles, fragments in cluster bombs, fragments in anti-personnel mines and in other weapons. The objective of the General Grove letter of 1943 has come to fruition.
Europe During my DU presentations in Europe this past winter many people would ask, "How is it possible that 70% of Americans polled agree with the most recent United States and United Kingdom bombing of Iraq?" My answer to them was; Many Americans believe that life is just a matter of personnel survival in a meaningless and unfriendly world, so it makes perfect sense to them to focus all their energy at living as comfortably as possible and seeing to it that their children get the same opportunity, regardless of what happens to others as a result. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that the 30% who disagree with the bombing is a substantial margin; and that this minority might become a majority were it not for the negative influence of the mass media which keeps people misinformed on this issue.
William Blum author of, "Killing Hope", says in respond to the same question, "It's the same reason the great majority of them support almost any foreign adventure of their government they've been taught very carefully since childhood that their government means well in their dealings with other countries, that our intentions are honorable, etc. It's the same with any other population -- Americans aren't necessarily more brain washable and wrapped up in their personal lives than other people, but in any society, the powers-that-be can inculcate the majority with almost any beliefs they want. It is easier for them to do it in the US because the daily press and TV are less independent than in other countries. Just look at the British press -- almost every day they carry stories which question US actions abroad, but which don't make the US media."
Radiation Readings South of Basra, Iraq On January 17, 2001, air exposure measurements were taken in southern Iraq, some 150 km south of Basra on the DMZ road to Saudi Arabia. Readings of a 30mm intact projectile found in the field recorded exposure rates of 2,100-2,450 counts/minute while background exposure rates of 7-21 counts/minute were measured in six control areas away from the destroyed targets where the projectile was found. (See Appendix A for the Complete Report.)
The study team to Basra consisted of myself (See Appendix E Measurements in Iraq Desert); and Ramsay Clark, former US Attorney General and founder of the International Action Center (IAC).This new evidence suggests that DU projectiles may have contained at least traces of enriched uranium waste which contain the isotope U-236 which is not found in depleted uranium, nuclear waste also contains plutonium which is 200,000 times more radioactive than uranium and the radio toxicity is one million times higher. Laboratory tests of the projectile found in Iraq must be made before further conclusions can be drawn. A recent United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) study in Kosovo found traces of enriched uranium waste in the fragments of 30mm projectiles.
In Peace News July 26, 1995, "Britain & Israel's Bombs" by Mike Holderness. in reference to 40 tons of DU sold by Britain to Israel, "It is produced as a by-product of uranium enriched or by reprocessing spent fuel from a reactor". Five months later in the Life Magazine issue of November, 1995, "Did exposure to depleted uranium cause illness" again describing DU, "Gulf War: shells jacketed with depleted uranium, a waste product from nuclear reactors". Is it possible that the waste streams from the enrichment process and nuclear reactors have been mixed and called "depleted uranium"?
What is Next? DU is on the way out, e.g., the navy has stopped ordering DU ammunition and will be using tungsten. Reparation, medical care to civilians and soldiers and clean-up of contaminated countries must begin immediately. The following is a listing of countries now believed to possess weapons containing DU or have been contaminated by them: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bahrain, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Panama, Pakistan, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Korea, Sudan, Taiwan, Turkey, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Yugoslavia.
DU is the suspected cause of the deaths of many soldiers who have served in the Balkan wars. This DU issue threatens the stability of NATO. Weapons containing DU are considered illegal under international laws governing weapons of war. Weapons must meet these four criteria under existing international humanitarian and human rights law in armed conflict;
1) weapons must be able to be limited in effect to the field of battle(the territorial limitation),
2) weapons must be limited in effect to the time period of the armed conflict (the temporal limitation),
3) weapons must not be unduly inhumane (the humanity limitation),
4) weapons must not unduly damage the environment (the environmental limitation).
Weapons that contain DU are inherently illegal under this criteria. A resolution on weapons of mass destruction which includes DU is now before the United Nations Human Rights Sub-commission in Geneva Switzerland.
What Can People Do? Ask your political representative and environment department to help implement clean-up plans, epidemiological studies and put a stop the testing and development of DU in your area. Ask your public television station to show more independent coverage of the DU issue. Ask them to show documentaries such as "Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq" by John Pilger and the French documentary, "The Invisible War: Depleted Uranium and the Politics of Radiation" by Martin Meissonni. See Appendix B for address
The issue of whether one's country has weapons containing DU can be approached from two directions: by asking about both cause and effect. "Cause" means asking whether your country's military possesses munitions that contain DU. And if they do possess them, "Effect" means asking whether they are testing them on weapon ranges that they control. DU can be detected on these firing ranges by soil and water tests and with radiation instruments. Also, are there increased incidence of cancers and other radiation and heavy metals health effects in the local populations?
1 Ask the military if they possess munitions that contain DU? Ask weapons manufacturers if they produce weapons containing DU? Send a copy of your requests to your local representatives and the media. 2 Try approaching old friends from the armed forces. 3 Use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. 4 Take soil and water samples and other material (e.g. portable parts of tanks used as targets, projectiles and fragments) from practice ranges, and battlefields, take soil samples from areas hit by missiles and other weapons such as cluster bombs. 5. Seek out epidemiologists for help. 6. Seek out laboratory backups, geologists and other scientists who will test and analyze soil and water samples and locate radiation instruments that detect alpha radiation. See Appendix C for description of the German made MR 9511 ABX-Alert.
*Appendix A. Complete Report On January 17, 2001, 20 air exposure measurements were taken in southern Iraq, some 150 km south of Basra on the DMZ road to Saudi Arabia. Findings are listed below:
1. In Study Area 1, six readings of entry and exit holes on destroyed armored tanks were taken. Exposure rates of 60-120 counts/minute were recorded.
2. In Study Area 2, four readings of entry and exit holes on destroyed armored tanks were taken. Exposure rates of 500-1,945 counts/minute were recorded.
3. Four readings of a single 30mm intact projectile were taken. Exposure rates of 2,100-2,450 counts/minute were recorded.
4. Background exposure rates of 7-21 counts/minute were measured in six control areas away from the destroyed targets.
These results indicate the presence of both low and high level radiological pollution:
Low level: radioactive waste of DU (U-238), which is a by-product/waste of the enrichment process that recover the U-235 for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.
High level: enriched uranium waste from nuclear reactors where U-235 is used also contains U-236, and plutonium which are not found in DU.
US Air Force A-10 aircraft fired 940,000 30mm rounds of DU during combat in Iraq in 1991. When a DU penetrator strikes a target, up to 70% of the penetrator oxidizes into fumes and cigarette ash-like dust. The US military has admitted to using an overall total of 315 tons of DU for solid-core ammunition used during the Gulf War.
The radiation instrument used was a German-made hand-held MR 9511 ABX-Alert, manufactured by Muller Lehrtechnik. Registers alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
*Appendix B Addresses "Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq" by John Pilger P.O. Box 149 Oley, PA 19647 USA Ph #1-800-543-3764 E-mail <Bull Frog Films.org> . "The Invisible War: Depleted Uranium and the Politics of Radiation" by Martin Meissonni -.80 Rue De La Croix - Nivert - 75015 Paris - Tel. 01 40 45 47 00 E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
About the author; Damacio A. Lopez is the Executive Director of the International Depleted Uranium Study Team (IDUST). He has researched depleted uranium issues since 1985 and had authored and Co-authored many respected works, including; "Friendly Fire, the Link Between Depleted Uranium Munitions and Human Health Risk," 1994, "Uranium Battlefields Home and Abroad: Depleted Uranium Use by the U.S. Department of Defense." 1993 and "Progress on the Persian Gulf War Illness.Reality and Hypotheses," 1995, published by the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.