Depleted Uranium Dust – Public Health Disaster For The People Of Iraq and Afghanistan
Information Clearing House
In 1979, depleted uranium (DU) particles escaped from the National Lead Industries factory near Albany, N.Y., which was manufac-turing DU weapons for the U.S military. The particles traveled 26 miles and were discovered in a laboratory filter by Dr. Leonard Dietz, a nuclear physicist. This discovery led to a shut down of the factory in 1980, for releasing more than 0.85 pounds of DU dust into the atmosphere every month, and involved a cleanup of contaminated properties costing $100 million.
Imagine a far worse scenario. Terrorists acquire a million pounds of the deadly dust and scatter it in populated areas throughout the U.S. Hundreds of children report symptoms. Many acquire cancer and leukemia, suffering an early and painful death. Huge increases in severe birth defects are reported. Oncologists are overwhelmed. Soccer fields, sand lots and parks, traditional play areas for kids, are no longer safe. People lose their most basic freedom, the ability to go outside and safely breathe. Sounds worse than 9/11? Welcome to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dr. Jawad Al-Ali (55), director of the Oncology Center at the largest hospital in Basra, Iraq stated, at a (2003) conference in Japan:
“Two strange phenomena have come about in Basra which I have never seen before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient. We had one patient with 2 cancers – one in his stomach and kidney. Months later, primary cancer was developing in his other kidney–he had three different cancer types. The second is the clustering of cancer in families. We have 58 families here with more than one person affected by cancer. Dr Yasin, a general Surgeon here has two uncles, a sister and cousin affected with cancer. Dr Mazen, another specialist, has six family members suffering from cancer. My wife has nine members of her family with cancer.
“Children in particular are susceptible to DU poisoning. They have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to build and nourish their bones and they have a lot of soft tissues. Bone cancer and leukemia used to be diseases affecting them the most, however, cancer of the lymph system which can develop anywhere on the body, and has rarely been seen before the age of 12 is now also common.
“We were accused of spreading propaganda for Saddam before the war. When I have gone to do talks I have had people accuse me of being pro-Saddam. Sometimes I feel afraid to even talk. Regime people have been stealing my data and calling it their own, and using it for their own agendas. The Kuwaitis banned me from entering Kuwait – we were accused of being Saddam supporters.”
John Hanchette, a journalism professor at St. Bonaventure University, and one of the founding editors of USA TODAY related the following to DU researcher Leuren Moret. He stated that he had prepared news breaking stories about the effects of DU on Gulf War soldiers and Iraqi citizens, but that each time he was ready to publish, he received a phone call from the Pentagon asking him not to print the story. He has since been replaced as editor of USA TODAY.
Dr. Keith Baverstock, The World Health Organization’s chief expert on radiation and health for 11 years and author of an unpublished study has charged that his report “on the cancer risk to civilians in Iraq from breathing uranium contaminated dust” was also deliberately suppressed.
The information released by the U.S. Dept. of Defense is not reliable, according to some sources even within the military.
In 1997, while citing experiments, by others, in which 84 percent of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium died of cancer of the lungs, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, then Professor of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at Georgetown University in Washington was quoted as saying, “The Veterans Administration asked me to lie about the risks of incorporating depleted uranium in the human body.” At that time Dr. Durakovic was a colonel in the U.S. Army. He has since left the military, to found the Uranium Medical Research Center, a privately funded organization with headquarters in Canada.
PFC Stuart Grainger of 23 Army Division, 34th Platoon. (Names and numbers have been changed) was diagnosed with cancer several after returning from Iraq. Seven other men in the Platoon also have malignancies.
Doug Rokke, U.S. Army contractor who headed a clean-up of depleted uranium after the first Gulf War states:
“Depleted uranium is a crime against God and humanity.”
Rokke’s own crew, a hundred employees, was devastated by exposure to the fine dust. He stated:
“When we went to the Gulf, we were all really healthy,” but after performing clean-up operations in the desert (without protective gear), 30 members of his staff died, and “most others” including Rokke himself, “developed serious health problems.” Rokke now has reactive airway disease, neurological damage, cataracts, and kidney problems. “We warned the Department of Defense in 1991 after the Gulf War. Their arrogance is beyond comprehension,” said Rokke.
Yet the D.O.D still insists such ingestion is “not sufficient to make troops seriously ill in most cases.”
Then why did it make the clean up crew seriously or terminally ill in nearly all cases?
Marion Falk, a retired chemical physicist who built nuclear bombs for more than 20 years at Lawrence Livermore Lab, was asked if he thought that DU weapons operate in a similar manner as a dirty bomb.
“That’s exactly what they are. They fit the description of a dirty bomb in every way.”
According to Falk, more than 30 percent of the DU fired from the cannons of U.S. tanks is reduced to particles one-tenth of a micron (one millionth of a meter) in size or smaller on impact. “The larger the bang” the greater the amount of DU that is dispersed into the atmosphere, Falk said. With the larger missiles and bombs, nearly 100 percent of the DU is reduced to radioactive dust particles of the “micron size” or smaller, he said.
When asked if the main purpose for using it was for destroying things and killing people, Falk was more specific:
“It is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people.”
When a DU round or bomb strikes a hard target, most of its kinetic energy is converted to heat sufficient to ignite the DU. From 40% to 70% of the DU is converted to extremely fine dust particles of ceramic uranium oxide (primarily dioxide, though other formulations also occur). Over 60% of these particles are smaller than 5 microns in diameter, about the same size as the cigarette ash particles in cigarette smoke and therefore respirable.
Because conditions are so chaotic in Iraq, the medical infrastructure has been greatly compromised. In terms of both cancer and birth defects due to DU, only a small fraction of the cases are being reported.
Doctors in southern Iraq are making comparisons to the birth defects that followed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII. They have numerous photos of infants born without brains, with their internal organs outside their bodies, without sexual organs, without spines, and the list of deformities goes on an on. Such birth defects were extremely rare in Iraq prior to the large scale use of DU weapons. Now they are commonplace. In hospitals across Iraq, the mothers are no longer asking, “Doctor, is it a boy or girl?” but rather, “Doctor, is it normal?”
Ross B. Mirkarimi, a spokesman at The Arms Control Research Centre stated, “Unborn children of the region are paying the highest price, the integrity of their DNA.”
Prior to her death from leukemia in Sept. 2004, Nuha Al Radi, an accomplished Iraqi artist and author of the “Baghdad Diaries” wrote:
“Everyone seems to be dying of cancer. Every day one hears about another acquaintance or friend of a friend dying. How many more die in hospitals that one does not know? Apparently, over thirty percent of Iraqis have cancer, and there are lots of kids with leukemia.
“The depleted uranium left by the U.S. bombing campaign has turned Iraq into a cancer-infested country. For hundreds of years to come, the effects of the uranium will continue to wreak havoc on Iraq and its surrounding areas.”
This excerpt in her diary was written in 1993, after Gulf War I (Approximately 300 tons of DU ordinance, mostly in desert areas) but before Operation Iraqi Freedom, (Estimated 1,700 tons with much more near major population centers). So, it’s 5-6 times worse now than it was when she wrote that diary entry!!
Estimates of the percentage of D.U. which was ‘aerosolized’ into fine uranium oxide dust are approxi-mately 30-40%. That works out to over one million pounds of dust scattered throughout Iraq.
As a special advisor to the WHO, the UN, and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Dr. Ahmad Hardan has documented the effects of DU in Iraq between 1991 and 2002.
“American forces admit to using over 300 tons of DU weapons in 1991. The actual figure is closer to 800. This has caused a health crisis that has affected almost a third of a million people. As if that was not enough, America went on and used 200 tons more in Bagdad alone during the recent invasion. I don”t know about other parts of Iraq. It will take me years to document that.
“In Basra, it took us two years to obtain conclusive proof of what DU does, but we now know what to look for and the results are terrifying.”
By far the most devastating effect is on unborn children. Nothing can prepare anyone for the sight of hundreds of preserved fetuses scarcely human in appearance. Iraq is now seeing babies with terribly foreshortened limbs, with their intestines outside their bodies, with huge bulging tumors where their eyes should be, or with a single eye-like Cyclops, or without eyes, or without limbs, and even without heads. Significantly, some of the defects are almost unknown outside textbooks showing the babies born near A-bomb test sites in the Pacific. Dr. Hardan also states:
“I arranged for a delegation from Japan’s Hiroshima Hospital to come and share their expertise in the radiological diseases we are likely to face over time. The delegation told me the Americans had objected and they decided not to come. Similarly, a world famous German cancer specialist agreed to come, only to be told later that he would not be given permission to enter Iraq.”
Not only are we poisoning the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are making a concerted effort to keep out specialists from other countries who can help. The US Military doesn”t want the rest of the world to find out what we have done. At least under Saddam, the Iraqi people could stay healthy and conceive normal children. Few Americans are aware that in getting rid of Saddam in response to 9/11, we left something much worse in his place.