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Robert Anderson: The Global Threat of DU

The Global Threat of DU

Adding to the horrors of the current offensive into Lebanon, with Afghanistan close to anarchy and Iraq drifting into civil war, Bush is now rushing depleted uranium (DU) bombs to Israel. This supports their colossal act of homicide and will increase further global contamination by radioactive DU particles.

Laser guided GBU-28 bunker penetration bombs and much of the tank ammunition, such as M829 A1 shells, have DU penetrators built into them. What is even more galling is the likelihood that Rakon NZ probably manufactured the software to guide these obscene weapons.[i]

Although UN reports have stated that the use of the DU weapons is in violation of numerous laws and UN conventions, its use continues. As Dr Doug Rokke, ex-director of the Pentagon’s DU project, said, "We must do what is right for the citizens of the world - ban DU."

The silence of most of the media is deafening over this increasing menace to our global atmosphere. Thousands of horrendous genetic deformities in Kosovar, Afghan and Iraqi children - both immediately apparent and left as a future legacy - are virtually ignored. And increasing numbers of US war veterans find they are also now having deformed and mentally damaged children.[ii] All this despite Pentagon assurances that DU is harmless.[iii]

The dangers of radiation damage from both nuclear plants and weaponry have been well documented since the first nuclear power plants began operation.[iv] Gagged from getting their message out to the public, scientists resorted to writing books, like Professor Ernest Sternglass’s Secret Fallout.[v]

The millions of kilograms of depleted uranium in storage are a by-product of plants that produce enriched uranium. What better way to use it up than in weapons? Almost twice as dense as lead, with pyrophoric properties, DU burns its way through the toughest armour plate like a warm knife through butter. Converting its kinetic energy to heat, it burns at 3000oC to 5000oC. At these temperatures, the depleted uranium vaporises to form an ultra-fine ceramic dust[vi] which rises into the atmosphere and eventually into the troposphere. These particles hitch a ride to wherever the winds carry them. Like the debris from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the particles drift as a poisonous radioactive gas to fall with rain and snow onto whichever country they settle over.

Thousands of kilograms of DU penetrators were vaporised in the Balkans, Afghanistan, both Gulf Wars and now in Lebanon, thus adding to the toxic load our atmosphere must carry. Thanks to US efforts, the Iraqi and Afghan population is now free to live in a radioactive homeland. When will this madness stop? For years, we have fought to maintain a test ban treaty after scientists discovered the inevitable increases in neonatal deaths and early childhood deformities[vii] which followed nuclear tests.

Constant denials and cover-ups are made by the nuclear industry which maintains spurious “safety levels.” Many renowned independent scientists have pointed out that there is no “safe level” of radiation.[viii] While ingested uranium can be excreted from the human body, inhaled particles cannot. When inhaled, it settles into the lowest parts of the human lung to irradiate the surrounding tissue for ever.[ix] Cancer can be triggered by just one alpha particle. One gram of uranium - the size of a full stop in this sentence - emits 12,000 alpha particles per second into the surrounding tissues. Once inhaled, depleted-uranium particles irradiate the internal organs and do irreparable damage. DU-related genetic damage is happening to people of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Courageous scientists – e.g. Professors George Wald and Ernest Sternglass, and many others - help keep alive the debate on the health effects of low-level radiation, a debate that the military, the nuclear power industry and indentured scientists have tried to bury. Without media coverage, how are the public to know that their world and that of their children and grandchildren[x] is inexorably being poisoned by radioactive weapons? According to the United Nations, an estimated 50,000 deformed children[xi] have been born to veterans who were directly sprayed with Agent Orange or exposed through contaminated food and water. How many more must we accept from DU contamination?

One study of Gulf War veterans found that 67% of their children, conceived after they returned from war, were born with severe illnesses, missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers.[xii] Scientist, Dr Rosalie Bertell, maintains: “Desert Storm veterans, along with the people of Iraq and Kuwait, are victims of one of the latest military experiments on human beings. I believe that the ignorance was culpable and criminal.”

Rather than being ashamed that a local magazine,[xiii] Uncensored, was more willing than they to publish the truth, major media outlets deluded themselves into believing that the story need not be covered. It was "old news." The average New Zealander knows nothing about depleted uranium, any that do most likely saw reports on DU’s remarkable armour-piercing abilities. Its deadly long-term effects on people and the environment were never mentioned. Why should oligarchs such as Tony Blair and George Bush continue to ruin Earth’s environment? Even Britain’s Peers have requested that Blair be stripped of his power to go to war without vote.[xiv]

Must we now bear witness to even more childhood cancers and deformities, in Lebanese children? Israel’s onslaught in Lebanon to cripple Hizbollah has so far claimed 355 lives, mostly women and children, and this figure increases daily.

As Albert Einstein said: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Isn’t it time our media spoke out for all our sakes?

Dr Robert G Anderson
Member Union of Concerned Scientists

Robert has taught physics and nuclear medicine for two decades at tertiary level and is now spending time publishing books and articles on the environment and social responsibility. His immediate concern is that the use of depleted uranium weapons must cease if we are to avoid increasing global contamination.


[i] Government bombs out over Rakon., 15 June 06: The government's green light to Rakon' export of military grade oscillators sets a dangerous precedent.

[ii] Congenital defects in Iraqi children and those of US Gulf War veterans are identical,

[iii] Pentagon Hides DU Dangers to Deny Medical Care to Vets,

[iv] Lea, D.E., 1962 Actions of radiations on living cells. London Cambridge University Press.

[v] Sternglass E.J. Secret Fallout, McGraw-Hill Book Company

[vi] These particles are approaching a gas and pass through the finest filters available.

[vii] Sternglass E.J. June 1969 Can the infants survive? Bulletin of the Atomic scientists 25:26 also
Sternglass E.J. June 1963 Cancer: relation of prenatal radiation to development of the disease in childhood. Science 140:1102-1104.

[viii] Medical Consequences of Depleted Uranium. Dr H Caldicott.,

[ix] DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years – it’s there forever.

[x] Silent Genocide Depleted Uranium (DU)

[xi] US Vets Join Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims,


[xiii] Uncensored



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