After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Depleted Uranium Coming Home

The people of Europe may have more in common with the Iraqis than they would wish. A recent report by scientists Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan for Green Audit showed strong evidence that fine 'aerosol' particles of the radio active uranium used in depleted uranium weapons in the Iraq war may have travelled as far as Britain and could well have polluted countries closer to Iraq in greater quantities. The report uses data collected by the British Government on radio active particles in the air and released to Dr. Busby under Freedom of Information laws in Britain. The results are truly shocking:

The above diagram shows measured uranium in air at two week intervals from 1998 near the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston at four offsite and four onsite positions (R001H to R009H). As you can see during Gulf War 2 there was a 4-fold increase in air-borne uranium. The amounts may seem to be relatively small but according to the report:
"in the six weeks of elevated uranium each person would have inhaled about 23 million particles. These particles would have rapidly transferred through the lungs and into the lymphatic system where they would have access to all tissues... This focusing of the radiation on the DNA may be the cause of many anomalous mutagenic effects which show themselves in cell cultures (e.g. Miller et al 2002, 2004) in laboratory animals (e.g. Paquet 2005, IRSN 2005) and in the many reports of ill health associated with exposure to uranium."
Most publicized research about depleted uranium studied the immediate aftermath of a weapon strike. The general held belief is that an area of only tens of meters around the perimeter of the target is affected by the radioactive metal. This may be true for larger and heavier particles but little study has been done on much smaller aerosol particles that can be dispersed in the wind. The health risk of these smaller particles is also significantly higher as they are much more easily inhaled and absorbed into the body. To quote the study:
Uranium is a powerful genotoxic stressor. Although the air concentrations are small in mass terms, the evidence suggests that the excession in the UK represents evidence of dispersion of a new type of uranium, the ceramic sub micron oxide particle. It seems likely that air concentrations in European countries closer to Iraq would have been exposed to higher levels than those found at near Aldermaston. In view of the many reports of heritable genetic effects in areas where uranium has been used and these particles generated, and in the illnesses reported in Gulf veterans, time series analysis of infant mortality and congenital malformation rates in European databases assuming exposures to the foetus or the pre conception parents in mid March 2003 might be worth carrying out.
This is where bloggers can make a real difference. There has been a pitiful lack of reporting of this study in the media so little other research has been made public or linked to this report. Yet, if proven, this is as big an international issue as Chernobyl. Worse, as the use of depleted uranium is deliberate and its use is avoidable. This is also not just an issue for Europe, but for Iran, Turkey, Russia and any other country within 3000 miles of war zone. Bloggers have a worldwide network that can used to run an international campaign. I want to ask all other bloggers who feel strongly about this issue to:
  • publicise this report on their own blogs and pass it on to others.
  • campaign for statistics about background radiation and related health issues to be studied in their countries.
  • translate the report and raise the issue in your own local media.
If you do something please also keep in touch with me by emails - or through the comments section of my blog so we can keep everyone intouch with this campaign and maybe just maybe we can do something to change the world for the better.

Hat tip: Baghdad Dweller


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