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Radiation effects of depleted uranium continue to bring disease and death in Iraq

Fallujah (pop. 300,000) is Iraq’s most contaminated city.

Cancers in Fallujah catapulted from 40 cases among 100,000 people in 1991 to at least 1,600 by 2005. In a 2010International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health article, Busby and two colleagues, Malak Hamden and Entesar Ariabi, reported a 38-fold increase in leukemia, a 10-fold increase in breast cancer, and infant mortality rates eight times higher than in neighboring Kuwait.

Fallujah-babyBusby sampled the hair of Fallujah women with deformed babies and found slightly enriched uranium. He found the same thing in the soil. “The only possible source was the weapons,” he states.

These numbers are probably low. “Iraqi women whose children have birth defects feel stigmatized and often don’t report them,” says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a Michigan-based environmental toxicologist who won the 2015 Rachel Carson Award.

IRRADIATED IRAQ   The Nuclear Nightmare We Left Behind, The Washington Spectator,  By Barbara Koeppel   30 Mar 16 When the United States revealed in January that it is testing a more nimble, more precise version of its B61 atom bomb, some were immediately alarmed. General James Cartwright, a former strategist for President Obama, warned that “going smaller” could make nuclear weapons “more thinkable” and “more usable.”

However, what is little known is that for the past 25 years, the United States and its allies have routinely used radioactive weapons in battle, in the form of warheads and explosives made with depleted, undepleted, or slightly enriched uranium. While the Department of Defense (DOD) calls these weapons “conventional” (non-nuclear), they are radioactive and chemically toxic. In Iraq, where the United States and its partners waged two wars, toxic waste covers the country and poisons the people. U.S. veterans are also sick and dying.

Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps officer in Iraq and United Nations weapons inspector, told me, “The irony is we invaded Iraq in 2003 to destroy its non-existent WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. To do it, we fired these new weapons, causing radioactive casualties.”

The weapons were first used in 1991 during Desert Storm, when the U.S. military fired guided bombs and missiles containing depleted uranium (DU), a waste product from nuclear reactors. The Department of Defense (DOD) particularly prized them because, with dramatic density, speed, and heat, they blasted through tanks and bunkers.

Within one or two years, grotesque birth defects spiraled—such as babies with two heads. Or missing eyes, hands, and legs. Or stomachs and brains inside out.

Keith Baverstock, who headed the radiological section of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Center of Environment and Health in the 1990s, explained why: When uranium weapons explode, their massive blasts produce gray or black clouds of uranium oxide dust particles. These float for miles, people breathe them, and the dust lodges in their lungs. From there, they seep into the lymph system and blood, flow throughout the body, and bind to the genes and chromosomes, causing them to mutate. First, they trigger birth defects. Within five or more years, cancer. Organs, often the kidneys, fail.

At one Basra hospital, leukemia cases in children up to age 14 doubled from 1992 to 1999, says Amy Hagopian, a University of Washington School of Public Health professor. Birth defects also surged, from 37 in 1990 to 254 in 2001, according to a 2005 article in Environmental Health.

Leukemia—cancer of the blood—develops quickly. Chris Busby, a British chemical physicist, explains: “Blood cells are the most easily damaged by radiation and duplicate rapidly. We’ve known this since Hiroshima.”

Dai Williams, an independent weapons researcher in Britain, says the dust emits alpha radiation—20 times more damaging than the gamma radiation from nuclear weapons. The military insists the dust is harmless because it can’t penetrate the skin. They ignore that it can be inhaled.

Fast forward to 2003. When the United States reinvaded Iraq, it launched bunker-busting guided bombs, cruise missiles, and TOW anti-tank missiles. It also fired new thermobaric warheads—much stronger explosives with stunningly large blasts. Many of these, says Ritter, contained some type of uranium, whether depleted, undepleted, or slightly enriched.

Williams says thermobaric weapons explode at extremely high temperatures and “the only material that can do that is uranium.” He adds that while today’s nuclear weapons are nominally subject to international regulations, no existing arms protocol addresses uranium in a non-nuclear context.

While the U.S. government has cleaned up some contaminated sites at home—such as a former uranium munitions plant in Concord, Mass.—it has yet to acknowledge the mess in Iraq.

“Iraq is one large hazardous waste site,” Ritter says. “If it was the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency would declare it a Superfund site and order it be cleaned.

Left behind in Fallujah

Fallujah (pop. 300,000) is Iraq’s most contaminated city. The U.S. military attacked it twice in 2004, and in the November siege, troops fired thermobaric weapons, including a shoulder-launched missile called the SMAW-NE. (NE means “novel explosive.”)

Ross Caputi was there with the U.S. 1st Battalion 8th Marines. He told me, “We used the SMAW-NE and guys raved about how you could fire just one round and clear a building.” Concrete bunkers and buildings were instantly incinerated and collapsed. The DOD was not disappointed.

Cancers in Fallujah catapulted from 40 cases among 100,000 people in 1991 to at least 1,600 by 2005. In a 2010International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health article, Busby and two colleagues, Malak Hamden and Entesar Ariabi, reported a 38-fold increase in leukemia, a 10-fold increase in breast cancer, and infant mortality rates eight times higher than in neighboring Kuwait.

Busby sampled the hair of Fallujah women with deformed babies and found slightly enriched uranium. He found the same thing in the soil. “The only possible source was the weapons,” he states.

These numbers are probably low. “Iraqi women whose children have birth defects feel stigmatized and often don’t report them,” says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a Michigan-based environmental toxicologist who won the 2015 Rachel Carson Award.

Besides the cancers and birth defects, an Irish pathologist (who asked for anonymity) said an unusually high number of children have cerebral palsy (CP) near the city of Hawija. “I was skeptical when Iraqi doctors told me, but I examined 30 and saw it was classic CP. I don’t know what caused this, but the increase is almost certainly war-related.”

It is often argued that uranium occurs in nature, so it’s impossible to link soil and other samples to the weapons. But, Ritter told me that when experts examine a site, they take samples, study them in a special lab, and can easily tell the difference between uranium that is natural and that which was chemically processed. “The idea that you can’t link soil samples to weapons because of the presence of natural uranium is simply ludicrous. It’s done all the time by experts in the International Atomic Energy Agency and within the nuclear programs of all major nuclear powers,” Ritter says.

Burn pits and toxic clouds

In addition to the weapons’ lethal dust, Iraqis and coalition troops were exposed to poisonous smoke from huge open burn pits, some stretching 10 acres. From 2003 to 2011, U.S. military bases burned waste in the pits around the clock—spewing toxic clouds for miles.

Two were near Fallujah. Caputi says,“We dumped everything there. Our plastic bottles, tires, human waste, and batteries.”

Rubber, oil, solvents, unexploded weapons, and even medical waste were also tossed into the pits. As a 2008 Army Times article noted, Balad Air Base burned around 90,000 plastic bottles a day.

When plastic burns, it gives off dioxin—the key ingredient in Agent Orange…..http://linkis.com/washingtonspectator.org/b2hLC

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April 11, 2016 - Posted by | children, depleted uranium, health, Iraq

3 Comments »

  1. Award to Depleted Uranium film: The in New York produced short movie DEVIL’S WORK by Brazilian filmmaker Miguel Silveira received the “Yellow Einstein Award” of the International Uranium Film Festival 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. It is an important movie. Influenced by Professor Siegwart Horst Günther who received the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2007, Miguel Silveira’s film reflects the use of depleted uranium weapons by the US-Army in Iraq. http://www.uraniumfilmfestival.org

    Comment by Urânio em Moviemento (@URANIUMFESTIVAL) | June 12, 2016 | Reply


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