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 Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>