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New Test Finds Depleted Uranium 20 Years After Exposure

Laura Weldon


January 16, 2008

Depleted uranium (DU) has been found in the urine of Gulf War vets as long as 20 years after exposure. A highly sensitive test has been developed which can detect DU even when previous screening has proven negative. This test may assist with unresolved health claims.

We are all exposed to minuscule amounts of uranium every day. But it would take over five tons of rock and soil to come up with a teaspoon of the isotopic proportions of natural uranium. In contrast, the DU used by the military is "depleted" by only one percent of the total uranium. It remains highly concentrated.

Any form of uranium becomes exceedingly dangerous when burned, which is exactly what happens when DU is used in weapons systems. The tiny particles are aerosolized and can be inhaled into the lungs. These soluble DU compounds then enter the bloodstream and from there reach bones and organs. This DU can remain, literally radiating the body from within, for years. In the past, exposed individuals were often not checked for inhaled DU or were not tested with equipment that could differentiate the isotopes 235 and 236 characteristic of DU.

Recently a University of Leicester geologist, Professor Randall R. Parrish, and his research team, developed a highly sensitive means of detecting DU in urine using mass spectrometry. These results enabled Parrish to reassess data on DU exposure. He notes that findings of DU in the urine of 1991 Gulf War vets is uncommon, but if the exposure was significant it can be detected. Such a test can relieve the concerns of some veterans and validate the claims of others. Parrish also sees a need to study people who live near DU munitions facilities and people in DU contaminated areas of Iraq.
Armor-piercing shells made of depleted uranium were first used during the Gulf War in 1991 as U.S. and Allied troops rousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. DU was used again in 1995, this time in NATO air strikes over Bosnia. And now DU is heavily used in Iraq. There, DU is used not only in anti-tank weapons but also in guided missiles and aerial bombs.

DU is utilized for armor piercing munitions due to its very high density. Since DU is 1.7 times more dense than lead, this provides increased penetration. The radiation emitted by DU persists for thousands of years.

Military personnel and civilians who have been exposed to DU have linked the toxin to illness, birth defects and death.

The U.S. Federal Code Title 50 Chapter 40 2302 defines weapons of mass destruction as follows: 1) The term "weapon of mass destruction" means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of:

(A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors

(B) a disease organism

(C) radiation or radioactivity

By these standards, DU meets two of three definitions as a weapon of mass destruction.

About the author

Laura Weldon is a writer with a book called Free Range Learning coming out in 2008. She lives on an organic farm and believes in bliss.

:: Article nr. 40164 sent on 17-jan-2008 02:46 ECT


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