Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Depleted uranium soils battlefields

12.03.2002


Depleted uranium left from US air strikes on Sarajevo.
© AP/Hidajet delic


Report assesses chemical effects of Gulf war weapon.

Depleted uranium in weapons may have left some soldiers with kidney damage and could cause long-term environmental contamination, say British scientists. Their independent review calls for accurate exposure tests and long-term environmental monitoring in combat zones.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a dense radioactive substance. It was used in weapons to punch through heavily armoured vehicles during the Gulf War and Kosovo conflicts.



This created controversy: exploding missiles scatter radioactive and chemically toxic dust that war veterans claim has left them ill.

The majority of soldiers have not been exposed to sufficient levels of the heavy metal to be at risk from its toxic effects, the report by the UK’s Royal Society concludes1. "For the majority of soldiers on the battlefield we consider it unlikely that there will be any adverse effects," said group leader Brian Spratt, of Imperial College in London.

This implies that DU is unlikely to explain Gulf War Syndrome, although the report does not tackle this question explicitly.

However, around 200, mainly US, Gulf War soldiers who were hit by friendly fire or spent time cleaning contaminated vehicles may have inhaled enough dust to cause kidney damage, says the report. Unknown numbers of Iraqis may also have been affected.

The report’s main recommendation is that accurate, validated tests for low levels of DU in urine should be developed, and that those who are identified as exposed should undergo long-term health studies. "You want to use a battery of modern tests," says group member and metabolism researcher Barbara Clayton of the University of Southampton, UK, to identify subtle biochemical changes. Sensitive DU urine tests are expected to be available in the UK by the end of this year.

There may also be enduring environmental consequences: 70-80% of all DU weapons - around 250 tonnes in the Gulf War region alone - are thought to remain buried in soil. Children playing at the sites could be at particular risk. And decades on, corroding weapons may release DU into the soil, to be taken up by plants and animals or leached into human water supplies.

Long-term monitoring of such sites is required to assess future consequences, the panel say. Removing the weapon debris is virtually impossible because its exact location is unknown. "It’s a knowledge gap," says Barry Smith, who studies pollution at the British Geological Survey in Nottingham, UK.

Uranium blitz

DU weapons were first used by Allied forces in the 1991 Gulf War: an estimated 340 tonnes were used then, and a further 11 tonnes in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s. Opinions differ on whether DU weapons are currently being used in Afghanistan.

In the first part of the Royal Society’s report, which was published last year, the committee examined the health effects of radiation exposure from DU - and concluded that there is virtually no increased risk of death from lung cancer. The chemical toxic effects of DU and its environmental impact are dealt with in the second part, published today.

The panel of experts had little evidence to work with - few human scientific studies have assessed the long-term toxic effects of DU. Anecdotal accounts report that members of a Gulf clean-up team have become seriously ill. The panel based its conclusions on the available scientific evidence and the estimated DU intakes of soldiers based on battlefield scenarios.

References

  1. The health hazards of depleted uranium munitions Part II. The Royal Society, (2002)

HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>