Current Issues - Depleted Uranium Weapons
(last updated 22 Oct 2016)
Gulf Wars (1991, 2003) -> extra page
Afghanistan (2001/2002) -> extra page
Balkans Wars (1994/95, 1999) -> extra page
DU Weapons Tests and Incidents -> extra page
DU manufacturing facilities -> extra page
United States confirms that it has fired depleted uranium in Syria
The US has finally confirmed that it has fired DU ammunition Syria, after it had earlier stated that the weapons would not be used. US Central Command (CENTCOM) has acknowledged that DU was fired on two dates - the 18 and 23 November 2015. Between the strikes on the two dates, 5,100 rounds of 30 mm DU ammunition were used by A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. This equates to 1,524 kg of DU. CENTCOM said that the ammunition was selected because of the "nature of the targets".
(ICBUW Oct. 21, 2016)
Canadian veterans' health problems unlikely related to depleted uranium, Scientific Advisory Committee study finds
> Download Depleted Uranium and Canadian Veterans, A Review of Potential Exposure and Health Effects, A Report Prepared for the Minister of Veterans Affairs by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Veterans' Health, January 2013 (611k PDF)
UN General Assembly supports precautionary approach to depleted uranium weapons
Following initial voting on the NAM-sponsored resolution Effects of Arms and Armaments Containing Depleted Uranium at the UN First Committee in November, where it was supported by 138 countries, 155 states have now supported the far reaching resolution at the UN General Assembly. Just four countries - the US, UK, France and Israel - voted against and 27 abstained, down from 28 in the November vote.
The resolution was informed by the UN Environment's Programme's (UNEP) repeated calls for a precautionary approach to the use and post-conflict management of the controversial weapons. The passage of this fourth General Assembly resolution is a further challenge to the use of radioactive and chemically toxic conventional weapons that can lead to environmental contamination and humanitarian harm.
"While non-binding, these resolutions are significant as they demonstrate global governmental opinion on DU weapons," said an ICBUW spokesperson.
(ICBUW Dec. 3, 2012)
Study finds transmission of genetic damage to offspring upon preconceptional paternal exposure to depleted uranium
"[...] Using a transgenic mouse system employing a lambda shuttle vector allowing
mutations (in the lacI gene) to be analyzed in vitro, we have investigated the
possibility that chronic preconceptional paternal DU exposure can lead to
transgenerational transmission of genomic instability.
Preconceptional paternal exposure to depleted uranium: transmission of genetic damage to offspring, by Miller AC, Stewart M, Rivas R, in: Health Physics September 2010 (Vol. 99, Issue 3), p. 371-379
[...] medium and high dose DU exposure to P1 fathers resulted in a significant increase in mutation frequency in F1 offspring (3.57 ± 0.37 and 4.81 ± 0.43 x 10-5; p < 0.001) in comparison to control (2.28 ± 0.31 x 10-5).
[...] To evaluate the role of radiation involved in the observed DU effects, males were exposed to equal concentrations (50 mg U L-1) of either enriched uranium or DU in their drinking water for 2 mo prior to breeding. A comparison of these offspring indicated that there was a specific-activity dependent increase in offspring bone marrow mutation frequency. Taken together these uranyl nitrate data support earlier results in other model systems showing that radiation can play a role in DU-induced biological effects in vitro.
However, since the lacI mutation model measures point mutations and cannot
measure large deletions that are characteristic of radiation damage, the role of
DU chemical effects in the observed offspring mutation frequency increase may
also be significant.
Regardless of the question of DU-radiation vs. DU-chemical effects, the data indicate that there exists a route for transgenerational transmission of factor(s) leading to genomic instability in F1 progeny from DU-exposed fathers.
EU Scientific Committee issues opinion on environmental and health risks following military use of depleted uranium
Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER): Opinion on the Environmental and Health Risks Posed by Depleted Uranium , European Union, 18 May 2010 (334k PDF)
Netherlands Parliament approves motion for a moratorium on depleted uranium weapons
On the 24th November, a majority in the Second Chamber of the Parliament in the Netherlands voted in favour of a motion that seeks a temporary suspension of the military use of weapons systems that contain depleted uranium and heavy metals.
(ICBUW Nov. 26, 2009)
Enhancement of radiation dose around small uranium particles in the human body found to be much smaller than previously claimed
From the abstract:
"[...] It has been claimed that upon exposure to naturally occurring background gamma-radiation, particles of DU in the human body would produce dose enhancement by a factor of 500–1000, thereby contributing a significant radiation dose in addition to the dose received from the inherent radioactivity of the DU. In this study, we used the Monte Carlo code EGSnrc to accurately estimate the likely maximum dose enhancement arising from the presence of micrometre-sized uranium particles in the body. We found that although the dose enhancement is significant, of the order of 1–10, it is considerably smaller than that suggested previously."
Enhancement of natural background gamma-radiation dose around uranium microparticles in the human body, by John E. Pattison1, Richard P. Hugtenburg, and Stuart Green, in: Journal of the Royal Society Interface , Published online before print September 23, 2009
Study finds direct transfer of inhaled uranium from nose to brain via olfactory receptor neurons
From the abstract:
To test whether the inhaled uranium enter the brain directly from the nasal cavity, male Sprague–Dawley rats were exposed to both inhaled and intraperitoneally injected uranium using the 236U and 233U, respectively, as tracers. The results showed a specific frontal brain accumulation of the inhaled uranium which is not observed with the injected uranium.
Role of the olfactory receptor neurons in the direct transport of inhaled uranium to the rat brain, by B. B. Tourniera, S. Frelona, E. Tourloniasa, L. Ageza, O. Delissena, I. Dublineaub, F. Paqueta and F. Petitota, in: Toxicology Letters (online June 9, 2009 )
Belgian parliament votes unanimously to ban depleted uranium weapon investments
On the 2nd of July, 2009, the Belgian Parliament unanimously approved a law forbidding the financing of the manufacture, use and possession of depleted uranium weapons. Belgium is now the first country to prevent the flow of money to producers of uranium weapons. The law complements the country's ban on their manufacture, testing, use, sale and stockpiling which came into force on June 21st, 2009.
(ICBUW July 8, 2009)
No DU detected in urine of U.S. veterans without DU embedded fragments
"Results: Between January 2003 and June 2008, we received 1,769 urine specimens for U analysis. The mean urine U measure was 0.009 µg U/g creatinine. Mean urine U concentrations for Gulf War and post-Gulf War veterans were 0.008 and 0.009 µg U/g creatinine, respectively. Only 3 of the 1,700 (0.01%) specimens for which we completed isotopic determination showed evidence of DU. Exposure histories confirmed that these three individuals had been involved in "friendly fire" incidents involving DU munitions or armored vehicles.
Biological Monitoring for Depleted Uranium Exposure in U.S. Veterans, by Carrie D. Dorsey, Susan M. Engelhardt, Katherine S. Squibb, and Melissa A. McDiarmid, in: Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 117 (2009), No. 6 (June), p.953–956
Conclusions: No urine U measure with a "depleted" isotopic signature has been detected in U.S. veterans without a history of retained DU embedded fragments from previous injury. These findings suggest that future DU-related health harm is unlikely in veterans without DU fragments."
Institute of Medicine publishes report on feasibility and design issues of epidemiologic studies of veterans exposed to depleted uranium
The study committee examined several options to study health outcomes of depleted uranium exposure in military and veteran populations and concluded that it would be difficult to design a study to comprehensively assess depleted uranium-related health outcomes with currently available data. The committee further concluded that the option most likely to obtain useful information about depleted uranium-related health outcomes would be a prospective cohort study if future military operations involve exposure to depleted uranium. The book contains recommendations aimed at improving future epidemiologic studies and identifying current active-duty military personnel and veterans with potential DU exposure.
Epidemiologic Studies of Veterans Exposed to Depleted Uranium: Feasibility and Design Issues , by Committee on Gulf War and Health: Updated Literature Review of Depleted Uranium, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 2008, 60 pages
European Parliament calls for a global ban on depleted uranium weapons
In a resolution adopted on depleted uranium (DU) weapons, the House calls for a moratorium on their use, increased pressure for an international treaty to ban them, and more research on these weapons. The resolution "strongly reiterates its call on all EU Member States and NATO countries to impose a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons and to redouble efforts towards a global ban." The resolution was adopted with 491 votes in favour, 18 against and 12 abstentions.
(European Parliament May 22, 2008)
National Research Council publishes review of U.S. Army's report on depleted uranium health risks
This National Research Council book reviews the toxicologic, radiologic, epidemiologic, and toxicokinetic data on depleted uranium, and assesses the Army's estimates of health risks to personnel exposed during and after combat, as presented in the report Depleted Uranium Aerosol Doses and Risks: Summary of U.S. Assessments (referred to as the Capstone Report). The book recommends that the Army re-evaluate the basis for some of its predictions about health outcomes at low levels of exposure, but, overall, the Capstone Report was judged to provide a reasonable characterization of the exposure and risks from depleted uranium.
Review of Toxicologic and Radiologic Risks to Military Personnel from Exposure to Depleted Uranium During and After Combat , by Committee on Toxicologic and Radiologic Effects from Exposure to Depleted Uranium During and After Combat, Committee on Toxicology, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 2008, 172 pages
Fungi found to immobilize uranium in soil
Study authors report that free-living and plant symbiotic (mycorrhizal) fungi can colonize DU surfaces and transform metallic DU into uranyl phosphate minerals, making it inaccessible to biological organisms, and unlikely to dissolve into surface waters.
Role of fungi in the biogeochemical fate of depleted uranium, by
Marina Fomina, John M. Charnock, Stephen Hillier, Rebeca Alvarez, Francis Livens, and Geoffrey M. Gadd, in: Current Biology, Vol 18, R375-R377, 6 May 2008
Study finds dramatic increase of uranium leaching rates from corroding DU penetrators after three years
> View here
UK Health Protection Agency releases reports assessing uncertainties of uranium biokinetics with inhalation of depleted uranium
Uncertainty Analysis of the ICRP Human Respiratory Tract Model applied to Interpretation of Bioassay Data for Depleted Uranium , by M R Bailey and M Puncher, HPA-RPD-023, June 2007
Uncertainty Analysis of the ICRP Systemic Model for Uranium as applied to Interpretation of Bioassay Data for Depleted Uranium , by J D Harrison, T P Fell, P G D Pellow, A W Phipps and M Puncher, HPA-RPD-024, June 2007
Influence of Nephrotoxicity on Urinary Excretion of Uranium , by A Hodgson, P G D Pellow and G N Stradling, HPA-RPD-025, June 2007
Study finds particulate depleted uranium causes toxic effects and chromosome breakage on human lung cells
> View here
On March 22, 2007, the Belgian Chamber plenary sitting voted unanimously in favor of a law proposal regarding depleted uranium munitions that had
unanimously been approved by the Chamber Commission on National
Defence two weeks earlier.
The law will "prohibit the manufacture,use, storage, sale, acquisition, supply and transit of inert munitions and armour that contain depleted uranium or any other industrially manufactured uranium."
(Belgian Coalition 'Stop Uranium Weapons!' 22 March, 2007)
In the context of weapons used in the Lebanon conflict in July/August 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) examined
specifically the possible use of munitions containing
Depleted Uranium. Thirty-two sites were visited
south and north of the Litani river and more than
fifty samples taken for laboratory analysis. The
dust, soil and smear samples were analyzed using
modern, highly sensitive equipment.
No evidence of the use of depleted
or natural uranium-containing weapons was
> Download: Lebanon Post Conflict Environmental Assessment, United Nations Environment Programme, January 2007 (16.6M PDF)
Research performed at the German Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL) in Braunschweig on the plant uptake of depleted uranium from corroding penetrators via soil shows that the uranium concentrations in plants grown on contaminated soil were up to 1000 times higher than in controls. Uranium mobilization was found to increase with decreasing fertility of soils.
> Download FAL release June 30, 2005 (PDF - in German)
"Notice is hereby given that the Director, Nuclear Material Safety
and Safeguards, has issued a Director's Decision on a petition dated
April 3, 2005, filed by Mr. James Salsman, hereinafter referred to as
the "Petitioner." The petition was supplemented on April 26, 2005,
and May 4, 2005. The petition concerns depleted uranium (DU) munition
licensees, specifically the Departments of the Air Force, Army, and
Navy, and ATK Tactical Systems Company, LLC.
The petition requested the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
to fine the licensees and modify their licenses. The Petitioner's
concerns revolve around the combustion products of DU munitions,
specifically hexavalent uranium trioxide (UO3)." [...]
"The Director of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and
Safeguards has determined that insofar as Petitioner requests, NRC to
require DU munition licensees to report incidents and overexposures to
NRC, and to remediate facilities in accordance with current
regulations, Petitioner's requests are granted.
The Director also has decided to deny Petitioner's requests for modification and/or revocation of DU munitions licenses and for imposition of fines because Petitioner did not demonstrate that DU munitions licensees violated any NRC requirement, or that licensed activity creates conditions hazardous
to the public health and safety or to the environment not already
considered in licensing or addressed by NRC requirements."
Federal Register: January 9, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 5) p. 1456 (download full text )
> Download Director's Decision (DD-05-08) (ADAMS)
The report performed by Batelle analyzes the health hazard from DU dust inhalation for surviving crew members of an Abrams tank (with conventional and/or DU armor) and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit by DU and conventional penetrators. The properties of the dust were determined in penetrator impact tests, and the health hazards were calculated using ICRP models, based on various exposure scenarios.
The report concludes that "For all vehicle configurations and exposure times modeled (up to 2 h), predicted radiation doses are not likely to cause adverse health effects." and "For all vehicle configurations and exposure times, except for the unventilated Abrams tank perforated through conventional armor, predicted uranium concentrations in the kidney are not
likely to cause adverse chemically-induced health effects."
> View DoD release Oct. 19, 2004
Depleted Uranium Aerosol Doses and Risks: Summary of U.S. Assessments, October 2004 (1M PDF index file giving access to individual PDF files for the chapters, totalling 80MB)
- Why is DU dangerous?
- What happens to the DU once it gets into the body?
- Is DU less hazardous than natural uranium, since it is depleted?
- Is DU more hazardous than natural uranium, since it contains contaminants such as uranium-236, plutonium-239, etc.?
- Is ceramic DU oxide more hazardous than other DU oxide?
- How can the hazard from a DU exposure be assessed?
- Is monitoring of total uranium in urine sufficient, or is an isotopic analysis required?
- Can uranium-236 be used as an indicator for DU exposure?
- What about monitoring methods other than uranium in urine?
- How reliable is all this biokinetic modeling and radiation dose assessment?
- What levels of total uranium are normally found in urine?
- What levels of uranium in urine are dangerous?
- What DU levels have been found in soldiers and/or residents of past war theaters?
- What is the health hazard from past exposure to DU, based on uranium data in urine analyzed so far?
> Download: Depleted Uranium in Urine of Soldiers - WISE Uranium Project FAQ (370k PDF )
Based on allegations that deaths, cancers, and malformations among the population near the military base of Salto di Quirra (Sardinia) might be caused from depleted uranium, a study had been commissioned in December 2002 to investigate any health hazards. The study was done by a Defense Ministry team led by geochemist Francesco Roccobono of the University of Siena and professor Luca Fanfani of the University of Cagliari. The values found have ruled out that the uranium could surpass normal levels. The levels of arsenic, lead, and other toxic elements found, however, are concerning.
(AGI July 26, 2004)
"Since 1991, depleted uranium (DU) ammunition has emerged from near total obscurity to become one of the most controversial weapons of modern warfare. Armor-piercing DU ammunition has been called everything from the "silver bullet" that saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War, to a genocidal weapon used to intentionally cause cancer and birth defects among civilian populations. Public interest in DU munitions has led to increased scientific inquiry of their effects, but the debate about DU’s environmental and health impacts persists, at least in part because the positions of both extremes dominating the debate are dictated more by politics and ideology than by science and common sense."
The Emergence and Decline of the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Munitions 1991-2004, by Dan Fahey, 20 June 2004
> Download full paper (132k PDF - posted with permission)
The following table is an excerpt from the paper:
Table 1. Known and Suspected Uses of DU Munitions in Warfare
|Location ||Armed Force |
|Year(s) ||Number of Rounds ||Quantity of DU (kg)|
|At sea off the Israeli coast ||Israeli Navy ||1985 ||Unknown ||Unknown|
|Iraq, Kuwait ||US Air Force |
US Marine Corps
UK Royal Army
||Tanks: >9,640 |
|Bosnia ||US Air Force ||1994-1995 ||Jets: 10,800 ||Jets: 3,260|
|Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro||US Air Force ||1999 ||Jets: 31,300 ||Jets: 9,450|
|Afghanistan ||US - use not confirmed||2001- ||Unknown ||Unknown|
|Iraq ||US Air Force |
US Marine Corps
UK Royal Army
||Tanks: >2,650 |
118,000 to 136,000
> See also: Dan Fahey: SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons
"There are new and legitimate concerns about the adequacy and implementation of current DU policies. This paper examines current policies to identify, evaluate, test, and monitor veterans with known or suspected DU exposures, with a focus on veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This paper also contains updated figures about the quantities of DU shot during combat in Iraq, and new information about the results of DU testing of US and British veterans."
Unresolved Issues Regarding Depleted Uranium And the Health of U.S. Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, by Dan Fahey, 24 March 2004
> Download full paper (241k PDF - posted with permission)
On March 6, 2004, a symposium examining the politics, the policy, and the science of depleted uranium was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
At this occasion, Dr Kilpatrick released new figures on the DU use in Iraq.
"Depleted Uranium Weapons: Toxic Contaminant or Necessary Technology?" · Conference audio (Real 16k)
related Pugwash website
On April 1 - 2, 2004, the British Geological Survey held a "Forum on the Determination of Uranium in Environmental and Biomedical Samples by Mass Spectrometric Techniques"
> Access calculator
The US Department of Defense shows interest in the procurement of tungsten bullets. From a recently published call for tenders for foreign arms manufacturers it is known that the German companies Diehl group (Nürnberg) and Mauser Oerlikon (Rheinmetall DeTec group) are to supply 20-millimeter ammunitions to the US Air Force for test purposes.
(Fincial Times Deutschland, Feb. 12, 2004)
The Government continues to insist that the munition is safe, but is preparing to remove depleted uranium rounds from service under Ministry of Defence plans to improve the fighting capability of the Army's Challenger 2 tank. As part of the enhancement programme, the tank will be fitted with a different gun which can fire a wider variety of more effective, and less controversial, ammunition types.
British tanks currently use a rifled gun which can fire only two types of ordnance, high explosive and depleted uranium rounds. This limitation will disappear in the next few years, if, as expected, the MoD decides to have its new tanks built with a smooth bore 120mm gun, which is now used by most Nato armies.
Recent advances in tank ammunition have also led to the development of a new generation of rounds that will no longer be dependent on depleted uranium to achieve the same level of penetration against modern armour. The production of depleted uranium ammunition by the Royal Ordnance, the British arms manufacturer, ceased earlier this year.
(The Telegraph Sep. 21, 2003)
> See also: Britain's navy to phase out depleted uranium weapons
On March 27, 2003, Rep Jim McDermott introduced bill H.R.1483
"Depleted Uranium Munitions Study Act of 2003
To require certain studies regarding the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium munitions, to require the cleanup and mitigation of depleted uranium contamination at sites of depleted uranium munition use and production in the United States, and for other purposes.
SEC. 3. PURPOSES.
The purposes of this Act are--
(1) to provide for studies of--
(A) the health effects resulting from exposure to depleted uranium munitions by inhalation, ingestion, or injection; and
(B) environmental contamination caused by depleted uranium at sites where depleted uranium was used in conflict, development, testing, or training and at sites where depleted uranium and depleted uranium munitions were produced; and
(2) to require the cleanup and mitigation of depleted uranium contamination at sites of depleted uranium munition use and production in the United States.
> View McDermott's news release (March 27, 2003)
> View Transcript of March 14, 2003, Briefing
"At one extreme in the DU debate, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has overstated
the importance of DU munitions and understated their adverse effects. [...] At the other extreme of the debate, some anti-DU activists, the governments of Iraq and the former-Yugoslavia, Yasser Arafat, and Taliban sympathizers have worked jointly and independently to promote an apocalyptic vision of DU’s effects."
SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons, by Dan Fahey, March 12, 2003
> Download full report (261k PDF, posted with permission)
> See also: Dan Fahey: The Emergence and Decline of the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Munitions 1991-2004
A uranium bioassay program was conducted involving 103 active and retired Canadian Forces personnel who had required tests. There was no control group.
The total uranium concentrations in each of two 24-h urine collections
were analyzed separately at independent commercial
laboratories by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
(ICP-MS) and by instrumental neutron activation analysis
(INAA). The mean and median concentrations were determined
to be 4.5 ng/L and 2.8 ng/L, respectively, from
ICP-MS and 17 ng/L and 15 ng/L, respectively, from
INAA. The total uranium concentrations were sufficiently low
so that isotopic (238U:235U ratio) assays could not be performed
directly from urine samples.
Isotopic assays were performed
on hair samples from 19 of the veterans participating in the
testing. The isotopic hair assays were scattered around the
natural 238U:235U ratio of 137.8, ranging from 122 +/- 21 to
145 +/- 16 (1 sigma).
A single bone sample (vertebrate bone marrow) from a
deceased member of the Canadian Forces was also analyzed
for total uranium content and isotopic ratio by ICP-MS. The
sample was shown to have 16.0 +/- 0.3 µg/kg uranium by dry
weight and a 238U:235U isotopic ratio of 138 +/- 4, consistent with
An Examination of Uranium Levels in Canadian Forces Personnel Who Served in The Gulf War And Kosovo, by E. A. Ough, B. J. Lewis, W. S. Andrews, et al., in: Health Physics Vol. 82 (2002) No. 4 (April), p. 527-532
> Download transcript of European Parliament debate Feb. 12, 2002 (Verbatim Report and translations)
> View European Parliament resolution on the harmful effects of unexploded ordnance (landmines and cluster submunitions) and depleted uranium ammunition (adopted Feb. 13, 2002 - provisional edition)
"The European Parliament, [...]
7. Asks the Commission, in the light of the results of these scientific investigations on the use of DU ammunition, to monitor developments in relation to the possible serious, widespread contamination of the environment, as well as any acute or appreciable long-term hazard to human health, and to keep it regularly informed; [...]
11. Calls on the Council to support independent and thorough investigations into the possible harmful effects of the use of depleted uranium ammunition (and other types of uranium warheads) in military operations in areas such as the Balkans, Afghanistan and other regions; stresses that such investigations should include consideration of the effects on military personnel serving in affected areas and the effects on civilians and their land; calls for the results of these investigations to be presented to Parliament;
12. Requests the Member States - in order to play their leadership role in full - to immediately implement a moratorium on the further use of cluster ammunition and depleted uranium ammunition (and other uranium warheads), pending the conclusions of a comprehensive study of the requirements of international humanitarian law; [...]"
UK NERC issues Science Announcement of Opportunity
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has asked the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to conduct a programme of research on the transport mechanisms of Depleted Uranium (DU) in the environment
and has transferred GBP 1.2 million to NERC to establish an independent
On 7 July 2003, NERC issued a Science Announcement of Opportunity "Transport, Uptake and Behaviour of Depleted Uranium in the Environment".
The closing date for outline bids is 6 October 2003.
UK Ministry of Defense proposes research programme on DU
MoD press release 15 March 2002
Proposal for a Research Programme on Depleted Uranium (11 March 2002):
HTML version · PDF version (555k)
Gulf veteran babies 'risk deformities'
Children of British soldiers who fought in wars in which depleted uranium ammunition was used are at greater risk of suffering genetic diseases passed on by their fathers, new research reveals.
Veterans of the conflicts in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo have been found to have up to 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities in their genes. That has raised fears they will pass cancers and genetic illnesses to their offspring. The study is the first to analyse chromosome deformation in soldiers.
'High levels of genetic damage do not occur naturally. It increases the probability of cancer, deformed babies and other genetic conditions significantly,' said Professor Albrecht Schott, a German biochemist who co-ordinated the research.
Schott collected blood samples from 16 British veterans last year. Fourteen had fought in the Gulf war, one of whom also served in Bosnia. Of the others, one served only in Kosovo and one only in Bosnia. Two of the veterans are women. The former soldiers have between double and 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities. The average was five-and-a-half times higher than found in civilians. None had less than double the normal rate.
A spokesman for the MoD dismissed Schott's findings. 'We consider the tests neither well thought out nor scientifically sound,' he said.
Last month the MoD said it was launching an investigation after a study revealed 19 Gulf veterans had developed lymphatic or bone marrow cancers compared with 11 in a control group.
(The Observer August 11, 2002)
Eight British veterans of the conflicts in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo have high
levels of deformed chromosomes, increasing the risks of cancers and abnormalities in their children. Six of the men saw action in the Gulf, and one of this six also served in Bosnia. Of the remaining two, one served only in Kosovo and one only in Bosnia.
Initial results of the study, investigating chromosome deformation in white blood cells of the soldiers, reveals genetic damage in the group at least 10 times greater than that found in the general population.
Professor Albrecht Schott, a retired chemist who worked at the Free University of Berlin until recently, is co-ordinating the research. His results will be published early in 2002.
(The Express (UK) December 24, 2001)
The results of the study were published in March 2003:
Chromosome aberration analysis in peripheral lymphocytes of Gulf war and Balkans war veterans, by H. Schröder, A. Heimers, R. Frentzel-Beyme, A. Schott and W. Hoffmann, in: Radiation Protection Dosimetry vol. 103 no. 3, pp 211-220 (2003).
> View abstract
The new Unit will have a similar but broader mandate than that of the UNEP Balkans Unit, which it replaces, and will be available to conduct assessments in any of the world's many post-conflict zones. Its 11-member team will be based with other UNEP offices at the International Environment House in Châtelaine (Geneva).
UNEP Post-Conflict Assessment Unit
"To require the suspension of the use, sale, development, production, testing, and export of depleted uranium munitions pending the outcome of certain studies of the health effects of such munitions, and for other purposes."
> H.R. 3155 (introduced in House October 17, 2001)
Depleted Uranium: Environmental and Health Effects in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, European Parliament, Directorate-General for Research, Working Paper, Scientific and Technological Options Assessment Series, STOA 100 EN, May 2001, 53 p.
> Download full text (497k PDF)
"The approach taken in the report is to estimate the typical levels of exposure on the battlefield over a wide range of scenarios, and the ‘worst-case’ exposures that individuals are unlikely to exceed. From these are calculated the potential health risks from radiation. The report also considers epidemiological studies of occupational exposures to uranium in other situations as an independent source of information on the risks of inhaling DU particles, although it recognises that the parallels may not be precise. A later report will consider the toxicological risks and environmental impacts."
"In conclusion, the report indicates that the radiological risks from the use of DU in munitions are for the most part low, but that for small numbers of soldiers there might be circumstances in which risks are higher, and it is for this reason that further work should be undertaken to clarify their extent."
A further report (Part II) was published on March 11, 2002. It addresses the risks from toxicological and environmental issues, including the risks to civilian population.
The health hazards of depleted uranium munitions, Part I/II, The Royal Society, London, May 2001 / March 2002
Gezondheidsrisico’s van blootstelling aan verarmd uranium, Een overzicht. Advies van een commissie van de Gezondheidsraad, Nr 2001/13, Den Haag, 16 mei 2001
(Health risks of exposure to depleted uranium. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 16 May 2001; publication no. 2001/13)
> Download full report (474k PDF - Dutch with English Summary)
> View press release 16 May 2001
"The World Health Organization (WHO) today published Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects, a monograph containing a number of recommendations regarding depleted uranium (DU) and human health. The monograph is the product of a review of the best available scientific literature on uranium and depleted uranium. It provides a framework for identifying the likely consequences of public and occupational exposure to DU."
> View WHO News Release April 26, 2001
> Download WHO Report Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects
> Download Final Report of the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, submitted to the Undersecretary of State for Defence, February 2007 (837k PDF)
A panel of scientific experts and veterans' representatives has been appointed to oversee the MOD's depleted uranium screening programme. Its first meeting was on 27 September 2001.
The Oversight Board has been appointed by Veterans' Minister Dr Lewis Moonie to advise on the development of a scientifically valid test for exposure to depleted uranium and a case control study.
> View MOD release Sep 26, 2001
SRP Consultative document page
UK Ministry of Defence, The Second Consultative Document on the Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme for Depleted Uranium, An invitation to comment on MOD proposal, London, 11 April 2001.
Nominations for membership of the Oversight Board are required by 1 June 2001.
The consultation period ends on 4 July 2001.
Download document (PDF 150kB)
UK Ministry of Defence, Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme Following Health Concerns in Respect of Depleted Uranium, A summary of responses received by MOD resulting from the MOD Consultation Document "An invitation to professional and official bodies to comment on technical issues", London, 11 April 2001
Download document (PDF 120kB)
Consultative document: Ministry of Defence - Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme Following Health Concerns in Respect of Depleted Uranium - An invitation to professional and official bodies to comment on technical issues - 12 February 2001 (Comments were due March 9, 2001.)
> Download Consultative document: Microsoft Word format 420kB · PDF format 380kB
> See also: UK Ministry of Defence seeks comment on proposed protocols for DU survey in Kosovo
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not support a call for the ban of depleted uranium weapons, since it had no evidence of the alleged high damages. (Sonntagszeitung, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2001)
> see also Depleted Uranium Munitions - Comments of the International Committee of the Red Cross (March 26, 2001)
Assembly calls for ban on weapons containing uranium and plutonium (Press release Jan. 24, 2001)
January 17, 2001: "The resolution, that was adopted by 394 votes to 60 with 106 abstentions, calls on Member States that are also NATO members to propose a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons in accordance with the precautionary principle. Parliament is urging Council and Member States to foster a clear and transparent debate on this matter, to set up an independent European medical working party and to give priority to all measures necessary to protect public health and the environment. The long term effects on the sites which were bombed, and on the civilian population, should also be evaluated. Council and Commission are urged to coordinate the findings of the enquiries conducted by Member States and the various international specialised agencies. The resolution also calls for priority to be given in aid programmes for the Balkans to provide assistance to civilian victims and to protect the environment." (European Parliament Press Services )
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied a petition dated June 1, 2000, filed by Doug Rokke, Ph.D. The petition concerns the use of depleted uranium (DU) by the U.S. Department of Defense and all services. The petition requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hold a hearing to consider ''the revocation of the master DU license for the U.S. Department of Defense and all services, implementation of substantial fines and consideration of personal criminal liability.'' As the basis for this request, the petitioner stated that ''the continuing deliberate use of DU munitions
during battle and during peacetime is resulting in serious health and environmental consequences.''
> view Director's Decision DD-01-01 (Jan. 9, 2001)
> see also: Notice in Federal Register, January 16, 2001 (Vol. 66, No. 10) p. 3621
Britain's Royal Navy is to phase out depleted uranium ammunition after the US manufacturers ceased producing the shells. The programme of moving to tungstentipped ammunition is believed to have already begun. The Royal Navy has been using the Americandesigned Phalanx antimissile system, which the US navy has moved away from over the past decade. (The Independent, Jan. 13, 2001)
Announcement (May 17, 2000) (in German) · use Babelfish for translation to English
Federal Register, July 14, 1998 (Vol. 63, No. 134), Notices, Page 37858-37859
(Download full notice ):
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Department of the Army:
Proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System
"SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA) of 1969 and Army Regulation (AR) 200-2, the proposed FONSI for
the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System is being published
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Ground Combat & Support
Systems (PEO-GCSS) has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment for
the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) Heavy Armor System. The current
use of the depleted uranium (DU) armor package on the Abrams MBT has
been re-evaluated to determine whether the environmental impacts of its
continued use remain insignificant, taking into consideration the
current use of the tank and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's)
reduction in allowable radiation exposure from 500 mrem/year to 100
mrem/year for tank and maintenance crews (individual members of the
As in already-fielded weapon system, M1 MBTs have been in
production and in the field since the early 1980s. During that time,
many technical, environmental and health assessments have been
completed. These documents have addressed and minimized environmental
impacts. As part of the continuing analysis effort, this EA focuses
specifically on the assembly, use, repair and disposal of the heavy
DATES: Comments must be received not later than August 28, 1998."
The UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and
Protection of Minorities passed a resolution condemning the
use of Depleted Uranium and certain other weapons during its
48th session in August 1996:
"On matters concerning international peace and security,
- Affirmed that weapons of mass destruction and, in
particular, nuclear weapons should have no role to play in
international relations and thus should be eliminated;
- Further reaffirmed its support for a total ban on the
production, marketing and use of such weapons; urged States that
had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on
Conventional Weapons and Protocols thereto;
- Urged all States to be guided in their national policies by
the need to curb production and spread of weapons of mass
destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear
weapons, chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster
bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing
- Requested the Secretary-General to collect information from
governments and other relevant sources on the use of such
weapons and on their consequential and cumulative effects, and
to submit a report on the matter to the Subcommission at its
Source: UN Press Release , 04 Sep
1996, HR/CN/755 : SUBCOMMISSION ON PREVENTION OF DISCRIMINATION
AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES CONCLUDES FORTY-EIGHTH SESSION