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US Lets Looters In, Keeps Inspectors Out

"US Lets Looters In, Keeps Inspectors Out" from Green Party (UK)

News from the UK GREEN PARTY

Monday 9 June 2003



Top scientist points to US cover-up over uranium weapons

As stories emerge of apparent radiation sickness in Iraq, together with reports of the looting of radioactive material from nuclear sites guarded by US soldiers, a nuclear scientist says this could indicate an American cover-up over radioactive munitions used by the US armed forces.

Dr Chris Busby, a leading expert on low-level radiation, explains: "It was strange that the US initially refused to let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Association carry out tests in Iraq.

"Now they've been allowed in, but only to one site, Tuwaitha 50 miles south of Baghdad. But the radioactive contamination at Tuwaitha must be dwarfed by contamination resulting from US bombardments.

"Iraq was bombarded with 350 tons of depleted uranium in 1991 and perhaps 1700 tons in 2003.

"So why would inspections be confined to one site, and why would the US government refuse to let the inspectors look at nuclear health and safety issues?"

Looting from nuclear sites would help hide evidence of use of uranium weapons

Dr Busby, the Green Party's spokesperson on science & technology, and expert representative of British veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome (1), believes the US may be seeking to cover its tracks following the widespread use of radioactive munitions and the horrendous effects of these on the Iraqi populace - and on US and British soldiers. He comments: "If bunker-busting bombs containing uranium penetrators were used, this would have caused serious contamination of parts of Iraq at levels which would constitute radiological health hazards." (2)

There are indications that the US has been using natural undepleted uranium in the warheads of cruise missiles and bunker- busting bombs. This could explain why American soldiers would allow Iraqi civilians to loot uranium drums from a nuclear site. Chris Busby explains: "If uranium weapons were used, this would inevitably lead to radiogenic illnesses and the discovery of high levels of uranium in the patients' urine.

"But if the US wants to cloud this issue, they could simply allow, encourage or organise the looting of uranium drums, and blame the uranium contamination on the looting of the drums and their use by civilians as storage containers. Perhaps that's why the soldiers guarding the site allowed the looting to take place.

"If the US is indeed using natural uranium in weapons, this does not represent a significantly greater health hazard than depleted uranium, since the effects are a consequence of internal alpha and beta radiation from inhaled particles. But it does make it much harder to investigate using epidemiology of ill health and contamination, because of the normal levels of uranium present in all living systems.

"However, autopsy specimens would answer the question of exposure to battlefield uranium particles since these would be found in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes. (3) So we're calling on the British government to deploy air filtration and radiation measuring equipment in areas under UK control to examine the concentration, size and identity of uranium particles present in the atmosphere. And we want them to ask the US to permit and encourage independent radiological survey of Iraq by the IAEA and separately by UNEP."


1. The Iraqis themselves called attention to sharply raised levels of cancer in adults and children in areas where DU had been used after the first Gulf War, together with increases in stillbirths, congenital malformations and heritable illnesses. There are disputes among scientific experts over the health consequences and exposure routes of DU. Evidence exists that the particles are long lived, widely dispersed and capable of causing chromosome and genetic damage on inhalation, and epidemiological evidence so far calls attention to increases in leukemia, lymphoma and congenital birth defects in both Iraq and Kosovo (following the latter's bombardment with DU by NATO in 1999), and also in Gulf and Balkan veteran populations who have been exposed to DU dust.

2. The radiation from the beta emissions of the Uranium daughter decay product Protoactinium-234 and Thorium-234 would be easily detectable by IAEA inspectors and the source of the increased radiation levels would be easily characterised by their portable gamma spectrometry equipment. In this context, the recent discovery by Dr Asaf Durakovic of enormously high levels of natural undepleted Uranium in the urine of patients in hospital in Afghanistan ( up to 300 times the normal background) who have been near earlier US bunker busting bomb explosions is significant.

3. Calculations made by Dr Chris Busby show that external beta radiation from Uranium contamination at the level of 1kg per square metre would result in a dose of about 4microSieverts per hour at a height of 2m. In September 2000 Chris Busby found contamination levels higher than this in southern Iraq close to where DU had been used in the first Gulf war. Four microSieverts and hour is about 80 times the normal background rate in Iraq and would represent a significant health hazard whether normal or depleted Uranium. Inhalation or ingestion of Uranium dust would result in the short term in symptoms including a flu-like illness with sore throat, coughing blood, nosebleeds, vomiting, diarrhoea, blistering skin or skin rashes, particularly septic fingernails and blackened fingernails in children (if the dust were trapped). Long term effects include leukemia, lymphoma, sterility, cancer and congenital malformations and stillbirths. The looting of the medical records also make it difficult to establish any epidemiological studies.

Comment/interviews: contact Green Party press office on 020 7561 0282.


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