Kosovo: Use of depleted uranium.
by Rosalie Bertell, PhD, GNSH
March 31st, 1999
I am an Epidemiologist, not a physicist (although I have taught college level physics). My specialty is in higher mathematics, with applications in the radiobiology and the biomedical sciences.
You can quote me on the following comment on the crisis in Kosovo:
Depleted Uranium (DU) is one of the largest categories of radioactive waste produced for the nuclear weapons and nuclear reactor industry. It is highly toxic to humans, both chemically as a heavy metal and radiologically as an alpha particle emitter which is very dangerous when taken internally.
Recently it has been substitute for lead in bullets and missiles by the US and UK, and was first used extensively by the West in the Gulf War. It is most likely a major contributor to the Gulf War Syndrome experienced both by the veterans and the people of Iraq.
When used in war, the DU bursts into flame from the impact when it hits a target. It can pierce tanks and armoured cars, releasing inside of them a deadly radioactive aerosol of uranium, unlike anything seen before. It can kill everyone in a tank.
This ceramic aerosol is much lighter than uranium dust. It can travel in air tens of kilometres from the point of release, or be stirred up in dust and resuspended in air with wind or human movement. It is very small and can be breathed in by anyone: a baby, pregnant woman, the elderly, the sick.
This radioactive ceramic can stay deep in the lungs for years, irradiating the tissue with powerful alpha particles within about a 30 micron sphere, causing emphysema and/or fibrosis. The ceramic can also be swallowed and do damage to the gastro-intestinal tract.
In time, it penetrates the lung tissue and enters into the blood stream. It can be stored in liver, kidney, bone or other tissues, again for years, irradiating all of the delicate tissues located near its storage place.
It can affect the blood, which is the basis of our immune system, and do damage to the renal system as it is eventually excreted in the urine. It can also initiate cancer or promote cancers which have been initiated by other carcinogens.
In October 1998 the WHO undertook a two year study of the increasing cancer rates, especially leukemia in young children, which have been noted in southern Iraq where most of the war took place. The WHO report is not yet out, but newer data from Iraq tells the story of even more dramatic increases in cancer rates, especially among the Iraqi veterans who participated in the war.
In the West, thousands of veterans are recognized as seriously ill with an unknown syndrome, and we have been able to document DU in their urine as late as 7 or 8 years after the war. There is no natural source of DU to explain this phenomena!.
It is imperative that we all denouce this radiation and toxic chemical warfare!.
It has now been used by the US and Britain against Iraq and in Bosnia. It is now being used in Kosovo (NATO announcement in Europe, 30 March 1999).
It has been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Tribunal (August 1996 Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities).
The Human Rights Commission has requested that the Secretary General prepare a written report on DU and certain other weapons of mass destruction (Resolution 1997/36, which also established a UN Rapporteur to take over the study of DU and other weapons of mass destruction on behalf of the UN).
The damage being done will not only cause incredible and unending suffering to today's victims, but the genetic damage it may cause can be passed on to their offspring. Such weapons and war itself need to be condemned as utter barbarianism!
This is certainly not to be interpreted as condoning so called ethnic cleasing or any of the nationalistic actions of the Yugoslav government. However, as one of the Professors at the University of Toronto said, "I can offer a different and more effective policy, but I would not start from here".
This Kosovo action is resulting from deep seated conflicting ideas of "World Order" - that proposed by NATO's vision of itself as a world police force, and that of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) which sees security rising out of honest cooperation and legal resolution of conflicting opinions.
Rosalie Bertell, Ph. D., GNSH
To read more in depth: Work prepared by Prof. Rosalie Bertell for The Hague Peace Conference, May 1999, titled "Gulf War Veterans and Depleted Uranium".