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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (31 March 1999)

Monstrous Birth Defects because of Depleted Uranium in the Food Chain

Part transcript of: "Features" in the Guardian Weekly of 10 January 1999, page 21:
  "Victims of a war they never saw - Since the Gulf war in 1991, the number of Iraqi children born with debilitating congenital deformities has soared."

  "... Britain imported 500 tons [DU} from the US in 1981. Its attraction is that bullets tipped with DU are so tough that they can slice through tanks like a knife through butter. The problem is that when DU-tipped bullets hit a target they explode, sending millions of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
  'This is when it becomes most dangerous,' says Arjun Makihani, the president of the US Istitute for Energy and Environmental Research. 'Once released, the particles can be directly inhaled, can pollute the water table and enter the food chain, spreading radioactive pollution over thousands of square miles. Exposure to this kind of radiation, as well as to chemical pollution, can cause genetic damage because of the ease with which uranium can cross the placenta to the foetus.'
  According to the US Department of Defence, at least 40 tonnes of DU were left on the battlefields of southern Iraq.
[...]
  "Their daughter Kimberley has a congenital deformity that affects her chromosomes. She is almost six, but the size of a three-year-old.
[...]
  "For the past three months Dr Zenad has been monitoring the birth defects in their delivery room, where twenty to 30 babies are born daily. She keeps her findings in a hard-backed grey notebook. She has divided the page into columns, in which she writes the sexes, dates of birth and weights of the babies. In a fourth column, she logs their deformities.
  She begins: 'August - we had three babies born with no head. Four had abnormally large heads. September we had six with no heads, none with large heads and two with short limbs. In October one with no head, four with big heads and four with deformed limbs and other forms of deformities.'
[...]
  "Darren and his unit [the Queens Royal Irish Hussars] reached the road after the dead had been looted but before their bodies had been removed. 'We were on the road for about ten hours. It was after the ceasefire, and with a couple of guys we went wandering through the wreckage. We had never heard of depleted uranium and hadn't been warned about taking any precautions.'   "The concern in Iraq is that the radiation from DU, which has a radioactive half-life of at least 4,000 years, is spreading around the country.
  'It's in the food chain now,' says Professor Al-Taha. 'Dates are being sent from the south - oranges, tomatoes, there isn't any way to control the spread.'
  "The price of cleaning up the radioactive mess in the Gulf would be enormous. It would cost 'billions' even if it were feasible, says Leonard Dietz, an atomic scientist who wrote a report for the US Energy Department.
[End of part transcript.]

Can we imagine what lies ahead if radioactive Depleted Uranium gets in the food chain in Europe because of the present Balkan war?
Our decision to feature 'old news' was sparked by the following message received from PMA:

31 March 1999
Kia ora,
Since yesterday's announcement that US A10 tank-busting warplanes were being deployed to take part in the bombing of Yugoslavia, we have been trying to find out if this means Depleted Uranium (DU) shells will be used. We are waiting to hear from England (where the planes are usually based) and the US to see if this can be confirmed, but DU shells do comprise the standard armour-piercing ammunition used by the A10s, and we know they were used extensively in the Gulf War. [...]
[ Peace Movement Aotearoa, PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand, tel +64 4 382 8129, fax +64 4 382 8173, pma@xtra.co.nz, http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/ - the national networking group for peace people]


Views expressed are not necessarily those of ecoglobe.
See: Depleted uranium and radioactivity in the food chain and ecoNews 22 April 1999

ecoglobe [yinyang] news (31 March 1999)
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