depleted uranium weapons

Andy Coates esquincle at
Wed Jul 16 13:01:10 MDT 2003

Les Schaffer wrote:

> i've posted two notes on depleted uranium weapons to pen-l. perhaps
> some marxmail readers will find them of interest:
> les schaffer

Thanks Les!
I agree with DM that Perleman's dismissal betrays ignorance of the
question.  The explosion of childhood cancers in Iraq, especially
southern Iraq after 1991 should give us pause on the question of DU.
While we don't know the actual rate of childhood leukemia in southern
Iraq (a 100% fatal illness under the embargo) the anecdotal evidence
is alarming.  If this isn't sufficient, perhaps the number of U.S.
casualties from the Gulf war would compel further reflection.  As of
May 2002 of 696,778 Gulf War veterans (1990-1991) 159,238 had been
awarded disability benefits for injuries and illness caused by the
war.  Dead Gulf War veterans include 148 in combat and 145 "other than
combat" (friendly fire and accidents) as of 1991.  Since then 8,013
have died of injury or illness attributed to the war.  To explain this
rate of illness and death the role of DU weapons would seem to merit
serious consideration at the least.  (Vet stats via Doug Rokke at

In the first post Les notes that he has not seen an attempt at a dose
response calculation for exposure to DU.  The nuclear physicist Len
Dietz has been working on this.  Here are his calculations:

Co-author, with Durokovic and Horan, of recent studies of DU found in
the urine of Gulf War vets, Dietz became interested in DU when the air
filter monitors at the Knolls Atomic Research Lab in Schenectady
detected airborne radiation back in 1979.  (Dietz, an expert in
uranium mass spectrometry, was then a senior researcher for General
Electric.)  The source of the radiation turned out to be the National
Lead plant, between the cities of Albany and Schenectady, which
manufactured 30mm DU-tipped cannon rounds.  Subsequent studies showed
that radioactive particles of depleted uranium were not only
aerosolized (in particles small enough to penetrate to human alveoli)
but released widely in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area (up to 26
miles (40 km) away from the plant).  Today the National Lead site
remains a "superfund clean-up site", closed by the government in 1980.
  The effects of exposure are not the subject of any public
epidemiology.  The workers at that plant have not even been granted
access to their own medical files from the examinations conducted at
the time of the plant closing.  (People from this community are among
my patients.)

Recently in Albany Dietz took the stage during a talk by Doug Rokke at
the Albany Medical College.  He described his more recent efforts to
elucidate a relationship between DU exposure and cancers and other
illnesses.  Starting from a dose of inhaled aerosolized depleted
uranium, touching upon the oxidation and aerosolization of DU as the
rounds explode into their targets (as Les explains in the second
post), he pointed to the work he has published with Asaf Durokovic
which looks at radioactive isotopes collected in 24-hour urine samples
from Gulf War vets.

More background on Len Dietz and the his work:

Durakovic and Dietz have a new article coming out (or just published?)
in Military Medicine.  I don't have the full text of these yet, but
here are pubmed citations for previous articles:

Military Medicine 2002 Aug;167(8):620-7
The quantitative analysis of depleted uranium isotopes in British,
Canadian, and U.S. Gulf War veterans.
Horan P, Dietz L, Durakovic A.
PMID: 12188230 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Croat Med J 2001 Apr;42(2):130-4
On depleted uranium: gulf war and Balkan syndrome.
Durakovic A.
PMID: 11259733 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Croat Med J 1999 Mar;40(1):49-66
Medical effects of internal contamination with uranium.
Durakovic A.
PMID: 9933897 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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