Depleted uranium use in Kosovo
Statement by Dr Rosalie Bertell (International Institute of Concern for
Public Health, Toronto) related to NATO's admission on March 30, 1999 that
they are using Depleted Uranium shells in the current war in Kosovo
(reproduced with permission):
"Depleted (DU) uranium 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.
Concentrated like this, it can kill everyone in a tank. This ceramic
aerosol is much lighter than uranium dust. It can disperse 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 effect 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 leukaemia in young children, which have been note
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 denounce 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
cleansing 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
Co-operation in Europe) which sees security rising out of honest
co-operation and legal resolution of conflicting opinions."
Dr Rosalie Bertell,
International Institute of Concern for Public Health,
710-264 Queens Quay West,
Ontario M5J 1B5,
Fax: +1-416- 260-3404,
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