In the 1970s, the Soviet military developed armor plating for their tanks that regular ammunition couldn’t penetrate. The Pentagon began looking for metals to make denser armor-piercing projectiles, and finally settled on depleted uranium (DU). DU is a byproduct of nuclear power generation; after the uranium has been spent in the reactor it leaves behind an isotope of the original uranium that is 1.6 times denser than lead. DU rounds are now common in heavy weapons like tanks, aircraft, and artillery.
One of the features of a DU round is the way it behaves when it hits its target. The incredibly dense material focuses all the pressure of the round at the very tip, pushing through virtually any armor. The round shatters on impact and is driven through the hole where the powdered DU then ignites on contact with air, creating a fireball that helps destroy the target. The fireball almost completely destroys the DU round as well… almost. While much is consumed by the fire, the rest is transformed into a very fine dust that is easily carried by the wind, captured by soil, absorbed by plants, or eaten or breathed by animals (and people). This low-level radioactive material has a half life of 4.5 billion years.
DU may be a major improvement in munitions, but the high cost of that improvement is only gradually becoming apparent. Some researchers think Gulf War Syndrome may be caused (at least in part) by DU from the first Gulf War. But more shocking is the effect our DU rounds are believed to be having in Fallujah, Iraq, right now.
Doctors in Fallujah blame depleted uranium used in devastating attacks in 2004 for a catastrophic rise in infant deaths, birth defects, and abnormalities. Iraqi parent’s first question is no longer “is it a boy or girl”, but “is it normal”. To compare: in August 2002 Fallujah General Hospital saw 530 births, 6 deaths, and 1 deformity. In September 2009 the same hospital saw only 170 births. Of those, 41 died and 31 of those had serious abnormalities. A Fallujah pediatrician has documented thousands of these tragedies, but says there are no medical terms to describe them because so many were unknown until we dumped twelve hundred tons of depleted uranium there.
A WORD OF CAUTION… “News To Make You Furious” is a light-hearted name for a very serious column. We’ve told you about some really bad issues ranging from AminoSweet to the Mortgage Crisis to Slavery, and all with the idea that there are some foul things going on in the world and we are better off knowing about them than hiding from them. But this story… you can’t “un-know” it. Once you’ve read this article, this abomination in Iraq will stay with you. You need to see the pictures of infants affected by this, and the horrific devastation visited upon them and their families. But the images will haunt you, and the shattered lives of these children will scar your dreams. It’s NOT for casual web-surfing, but it IS for people who can’t turn away from the things being done by our country, and in our name.
So with that, here is some in-depth information on the latest outrage in Iraq. And trust us, if you can stop crying long enough, you’ll be FURIOUS…
Not surprisingly, most of the reporting on this issue is coming from Al Jazeera, the CNN of the Middle East. Here are two of their major articles, and some links to images of the DU-Associated birth defects…
Images of Iraqi DU Babies- CAUTION: These are graphic and horrific images. Use your best judgment to decide if you really need to see them.
But the issue is beginning to get attention from other quarters as well. Here are several articles that deal with DU, its use in Iraq, and the medical science connecting it to health concerns. They are written from both technical and general-information standpoints, by medical and military experts, and from a variety of reporting institutions.
If you want to get involved, there is at least one organization dedicated to controlling DU weapons…
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) was formed in 2003 in Berlaar, Belgium to promote a campaign based on reliable information on depleted uranium weapons. It is a global coalition of 155 groups in 32 countries campaigning for a ban on the use, transport, manufacture, sale and export of all conventional weapon systems containing uranium (usually called depleted uranium weapons). It also seeks health monitoring and compensation for communities affected by the use of uranium weapons and the environmental remediation of such sites.