Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Other Side of the DU Debate: As Provided by Kathy Sanborn

Note: The first comment to the post below was by an Anonymous user and consists of a "cut and paste" from an "activist" web site and not one iota of independent thought or analysis. In fact, here is the link from which the entire "comment" was copied: IICPH.

The "comment" is typical of the rambling disjointed nature of the anti-DU crowd who use frequently repeated assertions totally unsupported by fact. They "respew" other's arguments. The premise being if you hear it often enough, it must be true.

I have no problem with posting links or any number of appropriate methods of documenting supporting evidence for arguments, but pasting a mountain of drivel for my readers to wade through is an abuse of this forum.

I would normally delete something like this, but it is a good illustration of the dirty tactics these people use to propagate their junk science, namely by "taking over" other people's blogs and forums. However, all future posts will be moderated.

I will be posting a reply to some of the more salient "arguments"...which I've already addressed elsehwere.

Finally, I don't think much of people who remain anonymous and don't have the courage to identify themselves when addressing a charged topic. This user didn't even have the courage to use their own arguments.

We now resume our regular post.

Last month, I took a look at a two-part interview by Kathy Sanborn with alleged depleted uranium (DU) expert Leuren Moret. The two-part interview was a continuation of DU topics that I began with the first post on this blog which grew out of the DU discussion on the blog Principled Stand.

This is the fourth posting on this topic. This time I will address the “other side of the DU debate” as presented by Ms Sanborn. I wrote to Ms Sanborn with specific criticisms of her “interview”. She did make a change in her lead-in for part two of her interview offering to present the other side. She also stated that it was her intent to provide both sides to allow the reader/listener to make up their own minds. This is the result of what she provided. It should be fairly obvious that she never had any intention of doing an impartial presentation so that the audience could make up their own minds.

You can read her presentation here. In this case, not only did she not bother to interview a real expert, but in reviewing the Moret interview, you find that she made no effort to pose critical questions to Ms. Moret. She never even questioned the Dr. Strangelove twist that Moret threw out there. Clearly Ms. Sanborn is “in bed” with lunatics like Moret.

In the first place “the other side” is not just the military’s position, but that of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Royal Society, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) just to name a few.

In the second place, Ms. Sanborn does not let the reader make up their own mind at all, contrary to her stated goal in the previous interview. She cherry picks elements from various reports out of context and then provides her own editorial comments clearly intended to sway the reader.

The problem is this for the anti-DU loonies – produce proof of your assertions. They cannot. Not one study has been able to conclusively prove a link between all the “horrors”, put forth by people like Ms. Moret, and DU. People like Ms. Sanborn, clearly ignorant of scientific fact, are unfortunately in positions that allow them propagate junk science. This they do with great gusto.


Anonymous said...

IICPH Home Find... Projects Get Involved / Help Contact Us
Update on Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome
Part 1 of 3
Human Studies
by Sister Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., GNSH
1 January 2005

Part I: Human Studies
Part 2: Depleted Uranium and other Toxic Exposures
Part 3: Historical Political Background of the Dispute over Depleted Uranium


The use of DU (depleted uranium) weapons in war has been widely opposed by scientists, legal experts and concerned persons both within and outside of the U.S. and U.K. Individuals from many countries have joined their efforts to bring this issue to the Human Rights Tribunal of the United Nations [which consists of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the United Nations Sub-Committee on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights], and have formed global organizations to support victims of DU and work toward a ban of its use. The Special Investigator of the Sub-Committee on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has found that the use of DU is illegal under existing Humanitarian Law. Yet millions of dollars have been spent sending fact finding teams of experts from respected international agencies, and in general no official cause for the widespread sickness, being attributed by the public to DU, has been found.

In this paper, I would like to present what we know empirically about the effects of depleted uranium (DU), as used by the military, on human health. I hope that this presentation of scientifically demonstrated evidence will serve to discredit the purely theoretical approach of the national and international investigating teams which followed the methodology proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). We have need of direct investigations of people - their exposures and medical problems in order to understand and begin to deal realistically with new methods of warfare and their true costs.

The ICRP methodology, [Ref 1.], recommended by nuclear physicists and engineers, calls for measurement of average radioactivity in the environment, potential pathways in air, water and land to humans, calculation of the average dose (including source energy and length of time of exposure) received in organs and tissues by those who inhale or ingest the contaminated material from this average level of environmental contamination. Then there is a theoretical conversion of various calculated average organ and tissue doses to an equivalent (for fatal cancers) whole body dose, and comparison of this final calculated dose with ICRP recommended limits. This methodology ends in a determination that the exposure was either legal or illegal, according to ICRP cost-benefit trade-off decisions.

Since ICRP has recommendations for nuclear workers and for members of the public, it becomes important to decide whether military personnel can be called nuclear workers, or if they retain their member-of-the-public status since they have no training in the handling or use of radioactive materials. Moreover, since the U.S. does not follow ICRP recommendations, when the US initiates a war overseas, the question of whether U.S. or ICRP regulations are to be used must be answered.

The empirical basis of the ICRP methodology is the research done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. This research looked at the health effects of the gamma and X-ray radiation released by the bomb in the first seconds after explosion. The Japanese atomic bomb research population (cases and controls) was never assessed for internal contamination from the fall-out, consumption of contaminated water or food, or the radiation exposure from residue of the bomb left on the contaminated earth.

It is my contention the atomic bomb research is a poor source of methodology for assessing the effects of internal DU contamination, especially DU as used on a battlefield. For this reason, I will present, first, information on the various isotopes of uranium, and then information gained by direct study of veterans and civilians exposed to DU on the battlefield. This will be followed by a discussion of the historical and political dimensions of the dispute over methodology, and, finally, a short report on the national and international studies in the literature which were based on the atomic bomb research and ICRP methodology.

Part II: Uranium Isotopes and Products.

Uranium (NU) is a natural product found in the Earth's crust. In ordinary soil, it occurs as about two micrograms per gram (two parts per million or 2 ppm) (range 0.1 to 20 ppm). Certain rocks have a higher concentration of uranium, about 0.05 to 0.2% by weight (five parts per 10,000 to two parts per thousand).

After the uranium is mined and milled, uranium oxide (sometimes called yellow cake) is formed. This is about 88% uranium (88 parts per hundred). The uranium oxide is combined with fluorine gas to form uranium hexafluoride, and then enriched, to concentrate the U235 isotope of uranium. The «extra» U238 is discarded. The uranium with enhanced U235 is called Enriched Uranium (EU), and it is used for either nuclear weapons or nuclear reactor fuel rods. The uranium which is discarded is called Depleted Uranium (DU), not because it is not radioactive but because the prized (and rare) U235, used for nuclear fission, has been almost completely removed.

Uranium is distributed globally, with, as noted previously, concentrations in soil of about two parts per million. If the human body had no filtering ability, we would expect to find roughly the same concentration in the body as in the environment. However, the reduction in humans is significant, 0.001 ppm or 1 ppb (part per billion) [Ref 2.].

The human body does not need uranium for any beneficial purpose, and it is always considered to be a contaminant. Other metals may be needed by the body in trace amounts.

The daily intake of natural uranium in food and water is about 1.9 micrograms, but only about 1 to 2% is absorbed through the intestines, between 0.019 and 0.038 microgram (19 to 38 nanograms). The output of natural uranium in feces is 1.881 to 1.862 micrograms daily. The entire gastro-intestinal tract is considered to be external to the body (like the hole in the donut), so this fraction of ingested water and food is not considered to be internal contamination. The 19 to 38 nanograms of natural uranium, which are absorbed by the intestinal wall, are considered to be internal to the body. They pass through the hepatic portal and are screened by the liver, then go either directly to the kidneys and are excreted through urine, or circulate in the blood, are stored in bone, and are excreted at a later time. These results vary according to the solubility of the chemical compounds of uranium in food and water, however these estimates are typical for natural uranium.[Ref 3.]

The daily excretion rate of uranium in urine, for non-occupational exposure, ranges from 3 to 310 nanograms. In this way, the body maintains steady state, and the estimates of internal uranium contamination remain fairly stable. [Ref 4.].

The Biokinetics of the DU aerosol generated in combat has not yet been entirely determined, and is one of the urgently needed pieces of information for predicting the health effects of DU inhalation and ingestion. The biokinetics of uranium oxide found in uranium mining and milling, approximately five microns in diameter, with a rough surface and visible as dust, is well known. The DU produced on the battlefield includes a ceramic fraction [Ref. 5.] formed under high temperatures, practically insoluble in body fluid, with a smooth spherical surface. It contains a mixture of uranium aerosols from 2.5 microns in diameter down to nanometer diameter, called metal fume (which can not be detected by the unaided human eye).

U238 is an alpha emitter with rare spontaneous fission. It decays into 234 Thorium (Th), which has a half life of 24.1 days, and is a beta and gamma emitter. Th234 decays into 234m Protactinium (Pa), an isomer of Pa234, which has a half life of 1.17 minutes, and is beta emitter. 234m Protactinium decays into Pa234 (which has a half life of 6.7 hours) and is an alpha emitter. Effectively, in four to six months after it is discarded from the enrichment facility, because of these continuous radioactive transformations, freshly produced DU, composed mostly of U238, becomes a mixture of U238, Th234, Pa234m, Pa234 and U234 in equilibrium proportions. The first two decay products, Th and Pa along with U238 account for most of the alpha, beta and small amount of gamma radioactivity of the mixture.

The spontaneous fission half-life for U238 is estimated to be 8.5 x 1017 years, which although it is much longer than its alpha decay half life, results in approximately two atoms of U238 in every milligram of uranium decaying by this process each year. When it decays by spontaneous fission, it releases approximately 40 times more energy than in nuclear decay. [Ref 6.]

DU distribution: Globally there is more than one billion tons of DU as a waste product of uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. It is available at little or no cost to weapons manufacturers, and it provides a valuable replacement for the costlier tungsten. It has some military advantages. When exposed to friction in air, or when it hits a hardened target it creates a very hot metal fume, 3000 to 6000 degrees Centigrade, which burns away the point of the weapon, keeping it sharp. This allows the missile or rocket to penetrate deeply into the object it hits. Tungsten, on the other hand, blunts against the target and does not penetrate as well.

Countries Currently Storing and Producing DU


Stored DU in

Metric Tons

DU Produced Annually

In Metric Tons

United States






Urenco: Germany,

Netherlands and U.K.












South Africa









[Ref. 7]

Most of the DU is in the form of UF 4 or UF 6 , which are highly unstable gases. In the U.S., this radioactive toxic gas is stored in 10 to 14 ton cylinders, out of doors, piled two high on a macadam surface. They are gradually being converted to Uranium Oxide, Uranium Metal, or Uranium Metal Alloys, which are more chemically stable. [Ref. 8].

Other Isotopes of Uranium: There are two more isotopes of uranium which are of concern: U234, which is 0.0055% in Natural Uranium and 0.0008% in DU, U236 which does not occur in Natural Uranium and was found present at 0.003% in the DU used in Yugoslavia. The presence of U236 in DU indicates that the ore from which the DU was extracted may have been from uranium obtained through chemical reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods, rather than from natural uranium. Such DU will contain traces of transuranics, including plutonium, americium and neptunium. Both of these uranium isotopes are alpha emitters.

Specific Activity: The effectiveness of uranium for cell mutation and cell killing depends on whether the uranium is inside or outside of the body. In both natural and depleted uranium, the isotope U238 predominates: 99.2745% in natural uranium, and 99.7947% in depleted uranium. Given the same amount of concentrated uranium, the specific activity of the depleted form is approximately 60% of the specific activity natural form. This means that DU has about 60% as many nuclear transformations, each emitting an alpha particle, than does natural uranium.

Along with the alpha and beta particles released by uranium and its progeny in nuclear transformations, there is also a gamma release of 1.775 MeV. [Ref. 9].

DU, because of its concentration, is orders of magnitude more radioactive that is natural soil containing natural uranium, and must be handled by persons with special training in handling radioactive materials. The physical half-life of U238, is 4.51 billion years.

One microgram of pure U238 has 12.4 atomic transformations (sub-microscopic explosions) every second, each giving off one alpha particle with energy between 4.15 and 4.2 MeV [million electron volts]. It only requires 6 to 10 eV [electron volts] to break the DNA strand in a cell. [Ref 10.] In one day, one microgram of DU would release 1,071,000 alpha particles, each with more than four million electron volts of energy; into whatever organ or tissue it was lodged. These alpha particle emissions impact a sphere with radius of about 7 cells. To assume that no harm is done to tissues and cells is ridiculous! To limit concern, as ICRP does, to damage resulting in a fatal cancer ten or twenty years from now is equally ridiculous. It should be obvious that DU is a significant hazard when inside of the human body, especially when the biological half time within the body is long.

Cancer, while not the only effect of cellular bombardment with alpha particles, is clearly one effect. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified «internally deposited radionuclides that emit alpha particles» as Group I carcinogens, meaning substances known to cause cancer in humans.

«Particle-emitting radionuclides:

«Lifetime studies of the carcinogenicity of pure and mixed particle-emitting radionuclides have been conducted in experimental animals of a number of species and strains that differ greatly in features such as size, metabolic characteristics and lifespan. The locations and types of tumours observed were influenced by factors including species, the form and route of administration, the resulting metabolic and dose patterns and the age and health status of the animals. Alpha particles have a short range of penetration in biological tissues, and tumours developed at the sites of radionuclide deposition.» [Ref 11.]

Uranium and Ill Health: Uranium was discovered in 1798, and its toxicity has been known since 1850. During the Manhattan Project extensive animal experiments were undertaken, documenting the kidney, respiratory and reproductive system effects. [Ref. 12.] Tests for uranium exposure of humans include lung scans, whole body scans (these are not very effective for alpha particles), feces analysis (for uranium not absorbed through the gut ) and urine analysis for uranium absorbed into the body.

DU was used extensively in war, for the first time, by the U.S. and U.K. in the Gulf War I, in 1991. Because the veterans of this war suffered a number of severe physiological symptoms, called the Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) which were undiagnosed, untreated and generally ignored by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Administration (VA), a meeting was called by the non-governmental organization, Military Toxics Project (MTP) [Ref 13.] in the Fall of 1999 to involve independent scientists with the veterans and other DU victims, for example those living near military firing ranges who were suffering similar symptoms. The lack of clinical or epidemiological studies of these exposed populations was obvious, and one of the decisions of this group was to set up a scientific study committee, headed by Dr. Rosalie Bertell. The first effort of this group was an attempt to determine whether or not there were radionuclides related to the DU exposure inside of the bodies of those exhibiting symptoms of GWS. The possibility of finding such evidence, eight years after the war, was thought to be small.

Clinical investigations began with engaging the Radiological Health Branch of Health Canada to conduct whole body, and lung scans on a veteran with severe symptoms of GWS. These scans were negative for radioactivity. This is not unusual both because of the length of time since exposure and because it is difficult to detect internal alpha particles with whole body counters because of the particle's short track in tissue. Alpha particles are stopped by human skin. This approach was abandoned.

It was next proposed by Bertell to examine 24-hour urine samples for DU. This would involve first separating out the uranium in urine, and then developing a test to distinguish between natural uranium (NU) and depleted uranium (DU). Dr. Hari Sharma, a nuclear chemist at the University of Waterloo, [Ref. 14.] was asked to undertake this task: to develop a technique which would be repeatable and reliable, and to demonstrate the technique on about five veterans. This approach, in spite of the eight to nine years since the veterans were exposed to DU, proved positive for most veterans. Dr. Sharma developed two methods for distinguishing between NU and DU in urine, and demonstrated that the results were reasonable and repeatable.

Contrary to the initial agreement, one member of the MTP scientific research team sent many more samples of urine than Dr. Sharma could handle. This interfered with his development of the analytical techniques need for investigative research. Apparently impatient with the time required for scientific certainty, the veterans reported on the DU findings to the press before Dr. Sharma had given permission. Because of this, and other forms of non-cooperation, and accusations against Dr. Sharma, the MTP research team continued its investigation without some members of the group.

According to the report of Dr. Hari Sharma, [Ref 15.] who did the 24-hour urine sample analyses for veterans exposed to DU in the First Gulf War, the range of U235 in a 24-hour samples of urine for Gulf War veterans, measured in 1999-2000 was 1.23 to 9.4 nanograms. The range of U238 in the same samples was 1.814 to 4.65 micrograms. This was not the expected ratio of isotopes. All samples appeared to be mixtures of NU and DU. Of the twenty two veterans ultimately tested, seventeen had mostly DU in their urine samples, one had about 33% DU, and four were indeterminate. Indeterminate indicates that it is not possible to determine the amount of NU and DU present in the specimen from data found by the two scientific methods [Ref 16.]. In many specimens, the amounts were found to be below the detection limits. «Mix» indicates that both NU and DU are present in the specimen, but it is not possible to determine the amount of each (or any) one of them from the analytical data.

Finding DU still present in the bodies of the veterans, this long a time after the war, was surprising, and it indicates that the particles inhaled or ingested in 1991 were not soluble in body fluid. Internal contamination with Uranium dust inhaled or ingested in uranium mines decreases dramatically over a two day weekend, and is almost undetectable in urine .within a fortnight. The new form of uranium oxide has a ceramic form [Ref. 17], consistent with the temperature of the friction and impact fires of uranium which exceeded the boiling point of uranium {this will be discussed later}. Studies conducted by the National Radiation Protection Board (NRPB) in the U.K. conclude that ceramic DU exposure limits should be based on radiation dose rather than chemical toxicity. [Ref..18.]

Chemical Analysis: Dr, Sharma eventually tested another group of eighteen urine samples, for two Iraqi veterans, three Iraqi citizens residing in Basra 1991-1994, one British veteran, two Canadian veterans, five Iraqi civilians who resided in Baghdad 1991-1994; and a second group of five U.S. veterans.

Of the two Iraqi veterans: 33% of the uranium in the first one's urine (1.34 micrograms) was DU, 4.34% of the uranium in the second one's urine (81 nanograms) was DU. These Iraqi veterans had not been subjected to the vaccinations to which U.S., U.K. and Canadian veterans were subjected, and they were relatively immune to the various infectious diseases in the region, which were new to the foreign veterans. However, they experienced the same symptoms of ill health.

Of the three Iraqi residents of Basra, Iraq: 15.8% of the uranium in the first one's urine (147 nanograms) was DU; the second had no DU; and 9.52% of the uranium in urine for the third (426 nanograms) was DU. Of the five Iraqi residents of Baghdad, 19.9% of the uranium in urine was DU and in the second, 64.2% of the uranium in urine was DU; the other three had all natural uranium. Microgram content could not be calculated for some samples. However, it is clear that the DU aerosol from the battlefield was transported to Baghdad although there was no fighting there.

Of the five U.S. veterans tested, the fractions of the uranium which were DU were: 15.2%, 55.2%, 38.6%, 84.1% and 59.3%. The DU content in nanograms was: 252, 924, and 844, with the last two, indeterminate.

Some samples of soil in Kuwait were also taken and analyzed. In Kuwait City and Jahra, no DU was found. In the beach area, uranium in three soil samples had about 24% DU. In the other soil sample, the uranium was natural. Four samples of soil taken from the Iraq battlefield each had about 24% of the uranium as DU. These were surface samples taken eight years after the war.

According to Dr. Sharma:

«We endeavored to measure the DU content [of urine] by four methodologies, but we have only two results where we can compare them. It can, however, be seen that DU is present in microgram quantities in urine specimens from the GWI veterans who were in the battlefield area». [Ref 15.]

The scientific methodology used by Dr. Sharma is based on the following facts: because of the different proportions of U238 and U235 in NU and DU, a simple ratio of these isotopes will identify the form present:

Pure NU: [U235]/[U238] = [0.720/99.2745] = 0.00725

Gulf War DU [U235/U238] = [0.2015/99.7947] = 0.00202 [Ref 15.]

Enriched uranium (EU) would have more U235 and less U238, so its ratio would greater than 0.00725. When the fraction of U235/U238 is between 0.00725 and 0.00202, the uranium being analyzed is a mixture of NU and DU. Dr. Hari Sharma has published a table which can be used to determine the fraction of each:

U235/U238 % DU

0.00202 100 (as used in the GWI)

0.003 81

0.004 62

0.005 43

0.006 24

0.007 4

0.00725 0 [Ref 15.]

Biological half-life is the time it takes for one half of the inhaled or ingested DU to be excreted from the body in urine or sweat. One normally assumes seven half-lives to rid the body of the particulates. The biological half-life of ceramic DU, i.e. DU exposed to the extremely high temperature in battle, is unknown. However, based on Dr. Sharma's studies, it may be in the range of ten years. This means, conservatively, ceramic DU may contaminate the human body for roughly 70 years. The measurable amount excreted in one 24-hour urine sample represents only a very small part of the original uptake of DU, but with more accurate estimates of the biological half-life, and the exact time of exposure, one could calculate from the daily excretion the original ingestion/inhalation amount. [Ref 19]. An estimate of four years is available for the half-life of ceramic uranium in lung, and this can be used to estimate a minimum for the amount of DU inhaled [Ref. 20].

Dr. Sharma's research established the fact that Gulf War Veterans from the 1991 War, were excreting measurable amounts of DU in urine, eight and nine years after their return from the Middle East. The DU particles had also spread to contaminate civilians, and the environment.

DU is not a pure form of uranium. Because of its radioactive properties, it is continually decaying into thorium and protactinium (Th234 Pa234m and Pa234). These emit alpha and beta particles. The average energy of the beta particle emitted by the protactinium is 0.87 MeV, and the end-point energy is 2.3 MeV. The estimated number of cells transverses by a beta particle with end-point energy of about 2.3 MeV, is 969 cells, and the beta with average energy 0.87 MeV, will transverse 316 cells. Therefore for each alpha particle emitted, which hits 7 or 8 cells, there will be beta particles transversing up 969 cells.[Ref 21.]

The long lasting fraction of the originally deposited DU, measured by Dr. Sharma, is likely the ceramic (glass-like) fraction produced in combat from the intensely hot fire produced by friction with air and hardened surfaces of buildings and armored tanks. One can assume that there was another portion of the original contamination which became soluble in body fluid over a shorter time, and had been eliminated in urine prior to Dr. Sharma's testing.

If, as is likely, some of the DU is in the form of non-biodegradable nanogram size particles, it may stay in the body for a lifetime. The normal filtering mechanisms of the body are too coarse to capture and eliminate in urine such small particles.

Summary of Human Studies:: the biological half-life of ceramic uranium could not be determined accurately by Professor Sharma because of unfortunate disruption of his valuable work. This determination is very important to completing the scientific analysis of the health effects of DU, but for now we will have to assume that a reasonable estimate is 10 years.

If or when the accurate biological half-time is determined, the current 24-hour sample content can be used to determine the amount of the ceramic DU in the original intake, by inhalation or ingestion.

The biological effects of internal DU contamination will depend on the chemical compounds of DU formed in the DU fire, smoothness and size of the particles formed, fragility of the aerosols (the larger ones formed in a metal fume are hollow spheres) and the solubility of various fractions of the contamination. The health effects experienced by the veterans will depend not only on the inhaled or ingested aerosolized particles containing DU, but also the nanometer size particles of other metals sublimated in the high temperature of the DU metal fume. The temperature of this fume exceeds the vaporization temperature of all ordinary metals.

By 1999, each small micron or nano size particle of DU had been inside the body of the veteran, whether in the lungs or elsewhere in organs and tissues, releasing 4.2 MeV (million electron volts) of alpha energy into a spherical area, 7 or 8 cells in radius, for over eight years. One microgram of U238 and its first two decay products would have released more than three trillion alpha and beta particles into the surrounding tissue (12.4 disintegrations per second, about 391 million nuclear events per year).

It would be rash to assume that such bursts of energy, impacting the delicate DNA, RNA and long proteins in the cells, which can break at energy releases of 6 to 10 eV (electron volts) [Ref. 22], did no cellular damage. The debate is only about whether or not a person really cares about this damage and its impact on the general health of organs and tissues.! ICRP methodology assumes that people care only if the damage leads to a fatal cancer.

The next step in DU epidemiological research would be to attempt to relate the veteran's contamination level to the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) he experienced. However, since a random sample of veterans, with documented medical complaints, could not be collected for analysis, and comparison made with their DU contamination level, no epidemiological study could be undertaken by the MTP Committee.

Epidemiological research required access to names of veterans from which random samples of those with and those without GWS could be drawn. It requires some official government backing of the study, so that the veterans would be likely to cooperate. Each veteran would be required to sign release of medical records and combat experience for use in aggregate statistical analysis.

In the U.S., veterans who requested this of the Veterans Administration (VA) were tested for total uranium only, and if this was in the normal range for uranium in urine, no further tests for DU were undertaken. In the U.K. veterans could individually request medical examination and testing, however this information was not randomly collected but rather participants were self-selected (making any study biased), medical data was not collected according to a set protocol (therefore could not be aggregated), and could not be scientifically analyzed to provide information for epidemiological research. In fact, these official collections of information interfered with the possibility of a legitimate epidemiological study of the effects of DU, which could then clarify the experience and be applied to claims of other exposed veterans.

In the U.S. Veterans Administration testing of Gulf War Veterans who were known to have DU shrapnel in their body, the urine uranium amount was divided by the creatinine level, so as to estimate how well the body was coping with the contamination. This testing would also be necessary in conducting an analysis of medical conditions and symptoms of contaminated veterans, necessitating access to clinical medical testing additional to the uranium analysis in urine. [Ref 23.].

These chemical and clinical tests, together with detailed medical histories and combat or other exposure information, while desirable, were beyond the resources and the available time of volunteer professionals. Veterans were disinclined to cooperate with non-governmental scientists, since they had been warned, wrongly, that the researchers were using them as guinea pigs. Unfortunately, proper epidemiological studies were never undertaken by either the U.S. or U.K. governments, although they had the authority, resources, laboratories and personnel to conduct such analyses.

Failure to undertake serious studies should not permit governments to claim that there is no definitive proof of cause. They have frustrated every effort to provide such proof.

Department of Veteran Affairs Study: One official epidemiological study did look at the health of the offspring of the Gulf War I veterans. This was a study of veterans in general, and was not limited to those either with GWS or with known exposure to DU. A study of the birth defects in the children of veterans in the U.S, undertaken by Han Kang, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, focused on the first pregnancy which veterans of the first Gulf War had after returning home. Slightly less than 21,000 veterans, from all four branches, active and retired were included in the study (about 70% of those to whom questionnaires were sent). Male veterans were two times as likely, and female veterans were almost three times as likely, to report children with birth defects than their counterparts who did not serve in the Gulf. Likely birth defects included webbed fingers and toes, heart murmurs, chromosomal abnormalities, and brain tumors. The researchers excluded developmental disorders, perinatal complications and pediatric disorders from the study. Male veterans reported miscarriages more often, and the increase, 1.62 times, was statistically significant. Females also reported more, but the sample size of female veterans was too small for reaching statistical significance. No attempt was made to relate this to DU or any other GW exposure. . [Ref 24.]

As an epidemiologist, I find these significant results startling. It indicates that the exposed population was fairly well defined, or stated differently, taking a random sample from all veterans (not just those with GWS) revealed a significant reproductive problem in the group. This is likely to indicate that most veterans, whether they have GWS or not, were exposed to the unidentified reproductive hazard. It also indicates that if the exposed group is better defined, the relative risks of reproductive problems would be higher. Normally when such a general study of all potentially affected people is undertaken, the relative risk of reproductive problems is about

An epidemiologist who finds a 1.5 significant risk then tries to better identify the at-risk sub-group. When a sub-group is properly identified, the relative risk is expected to be 2.0 or higher. Hans Kang apparently made no further efforts to find a sub-group within the total group of Gulf War veterans which would better describe the at-risk group.

Victims of DU Shrapnel: A study of another group of veterans, closely related to the problems of inhalation and ingestion of micro- and nanometer particles was undertaken by the Veteran's Administration in the U.S. The clinical work and publications of Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, [Ref 25.] reporting on a small sample of veterans with fragments of DU in their bodies, due to friendly fire accidents, has been helpful. However, it is on too small a sample, with a different type of exposure, to provide conclusive information helpful to the majority of the veterans suffering from inhalation of micro and nano particles of ceramic DU. It is more likely to be a study of the metabolism of slowly dissolving uranium particles from the shrapnel. It should be noted, however, that one of these shrapnel patients has had his arm amputated because of osteosarcoma, and another has lymphoma. Both of these types of cancers would be expected with uranium incorporation in bone.

Based on McDiarmid's studies, one can conclude that shrapnel of DU is slowly oxidized in situ, and gradually eliminated through urine without major damage (to date) of the kidney tubules. This slow mobilization and excretion would be expected to avoid the consequences of the fast dissolving and elimination of inhaled uranium dust, as takes place in miners, which can quickly overwhelm the kidney tubules. McDiarmid found no chromosomal aberration differences between high and low exposure groups for internal fragment deposition, but she did find statistically significant increase in Sister Chromatid Exchanges (SCE) in the high exposure group after ten years of follow up. Increased SCE is generally recognized as indicators of exposure to mutagens. Since this indicator developed years beyond the exposure time, it was not likely due to vaccines received in 1990-91, toxic gas or disease vectors found in Iraq, but to chronic contamination with uranium.

Abnormal increase in SCE likely also indicates the persistent presence of a somatic genotoxic hazard. The studies of veterans with imbedded shrapnel also reported finding DU in seminal fluid, indicating expected reproductive problems related to the genotoxic agent [Ref 26.]. This information should have caused the Gulf War veteran reproductive research to zero in on those veterans known to have been exposed to DU. Unfortunately, this opportunity to clarify the science has been lost.


1. Web page: www.icrp.org/ and address of the Secretariat: ICRP, SE-171 16 Stockholm, Sweden

2. Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects WHO/SDE/PHE/01.1, page 11.

3. ICRP 1975. Report of the Task Force on Reference Man (sic.) ICRP Publication 23. Oxford Pergamon Press.

4. Dang, HS, VR Pullat, KC Pillay. «Determining the Normal Concentration of Uranium in Urine and Application of the Data to its Biokinetics», Health Physics Vol.62, pp 562-556, 1992.

5. «The Metabolism of ceramic and non-ceramic forms of uranium dioxide after deposition in the rat lung» Stradling GN, et al. National Radiation Protection Board, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon UK, Human Toxicology Vol.7(2): 133-139, March 1988.

6. ibid Ref. 2. WHO page 6.

7. «Beneficial Uses of Depleted Uranium», by Colette Brown, U.S. Department of Energy, and AG Croff and MJ Haire, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1997, Knoxville TN, U.S.A.

8. ibid, Ref 7.

9. UNEP/UNCHS Task Force (BTF) Table 4.2 October 1999.

10. «The nature of the Chemical Bond», Linus Pauling. Cornell University Press, Ithica, NY, Third Edition. 1960.

11. IARC VOL.: 78 (2001) Some Internally Deposited Radionuclides.

12. «Pharmacology and toxicology of uranium compounds», by Voeglin, C, and H.C. Hodge. McGraw Hill National Nuclear Energy Series, Division VI, Volume I, Parts I and II, 1949. and «Toxicology of uranium, survey and collected papers». A. Tannenbaum. National Nuclear Energy Series, Manhattan Project Technical Section, Division VI - Plutonium Project Record, Vol.23, 1951.

13. Military Toxics Project, PO Box 558, Lewiston ME 04243, USA Tel: 207-783-5091; Email: mtp@miltoxproj.org

14. Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

15. «Investigations of Environmental Impacts from the Deployment of Depleted Uranium-Based Munitions. Part I Report and Tables» Hari D. Sharma, December 2003. Available from the MTP (Ref 13.).

16. Scientific methods used by Dr. Sharma include DNC {delayed neutron counting for U235 content} and INAA {Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis}.

17. ibid. Ref. 5.

18. ibid. Ref 5.

19. «Handbook of Health Physics and Radiological Health» Third Edition. Edited by Bernard Shleien, LA Slaback Jr., BK Birky. 1998, 12-13.

20. Personal Communication from Leonard Deitz.

21. «Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the U.S. Army»: Technical Report, prepared by the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute, June 1995, pages 10 - 13.

22. «The Nature of the Chemical Bond» by Linus Pauling, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1960. Third Edition.

23. Creatinine is produced at a steady rate and is affected very little by diet or by normal physical activities. If the kidneys are damaged and cannot function normally, the amount of creatinine in the urine decreases while its level in the blood increases. Using normalization with Creatinine also allows the researcher to use a grab sample of urine in place of a twenty-four hour sample. See «Uranium in Urine - Normalization to Creatinine» by Z.Karpas, et al. Health Physics Vol. 74, January 1998.

24. A questionnaire study of about 21,000 veterans, conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Han Kang, reported in Annals of Epidemiology, October 2001.

25. «Health Effects of Depleted Uranium on Exposed Gulf War Veterans: a 10 Year follow-up» by Melissa McDiarmid et al. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, Vol 67: 277-296, 2004.

26. «Biological Monitoring and Medical Surveillance Results of Depleted Uranium Exposed Gulf War Veterans», by McDiarmid, et al, in Program and Abstract Book, Conference on Federally Sponsored Gulf War Veterans' Illness Research, June 17-19, 1998.
From the IICPH Resource Centre www.iicph.org

J. L. Krueger said...

Let us begin with Sister Rosalie Bertell’s credentials. She is a PhD…in mathematics. How does this make her an expert in medical science, nuclear medicine or nuclear physics? She has absolutely no credentials in anything except mathematics. What she has is an activist track record with a decided anti-US and anti-UK bias.

Looking at the IICPH website from which the “comment” came, you will see that she seems to be an “expert” in many fields…none of which have anything to do with her formal training. She is even party to the Dr. Strangelovian “Fluoridated Water Conspiracy” championed by Leuren Moret in the Sanborn interview. That alone is enough to question both her sanity and veracity of anything else she says on matters scientific.

As to the content of anonymous’ comment, I will only address the opening paragraph.

The use of DU (depleted uranium) weapons in war has been widely opposed by scientists, legal experts and concerned persons both within and outside of the U.S. and U.K.

This statement is mildly reminiscent of similar statements found on the Institute For Creation Research. Widely opposed by which scientists? How do you define widely? Seems to me Bertell is making an assertion that she cannot prove.

Individuals from many countries have joined their efforts to bring this issue to the Human Rights Tribunal of the United Nations [which consists of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the United Nations Sub-Committee on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights], and have formed global organizations to support victims of DU and work toward a ban of its use.

This much is true. And when you start review the credentials of such people like Bertell, Douglas Rokke, Leuren Moret, Catherine Euler and others, you start to see that they are most assuredly not scientists and that they do a great deal of lying about their expertise.

The Special Investigator of the Sub-Committee on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has found that the use of DU is illegal under existing Humanitarian Law.

I answered this one on the blog Principled Stand. It is an example of how these people keep repeating a half-truth that eventually gets a life of its own. The special investigator, Dr. Sik Yuen, has no credentials or expertise on the subject of DU. In fact, the discussion of DU in the two papers he presented to the Sub-Committee takes up a handful of paragraphs in each of the 30 page plus papers.

Second, nothing produced by that Sub-Committee has any legally binding weight. The Sub-Committee is purely an advisory body with no authority to issue any findings. Look it up on the United Nations’ website.

Yet millions of dollars have been spent sending fact finding teams of experts from respected international agencies, and in general no official cause for the widespread sickness, being attributed by the public to DU, has been found.

This is a curious blend of fact and fiction. Yes, millions of dollars have been spent trying to establish a link between DU and the reported illnesses. Yes, no causal link has, to date, been established.

The fiction: “widespread sickness”. From whence is “widespread” determined? Being attributed by which public? I would guess that most of the public does not even know there is a controversy. No, I don’t have any empirical data to prove this, but that is my guess.

Again, here is the problem for the anti-DU crowd. They cannot prove a causal link between DU and the alleged illnesses. And that is where the argument should end.