Depleted Uranium Munitions
Depleted uranium, or DU, is a radioactive by-product from the industrial process used to enhance uranium. Depleted uranium is the leftover uranium-238 that results when scientists seek to alter naturally occurring uranium into uranium-235, which is used to produce nuclear energy. Depleted uranium is used in bullets and shells because it is a very heavy metal and can penetrate most armaments. Depleted uranium is the end result when most of the highly radioactive isotopes of uranium are removed.
The United States and Great Britain’s armed forces use munitions manufactured from depleted uranium because, when combined with metal alloys, they are most effective warhead for penetrating enemy tanks. In addition, depleted uranium is twice as dense as lead, the United States Army uses depleted uranium in armor plating. As soon as depleted uranium makes contact with its target, the uranium becomes a mist that can often be inhaled. Winds can carry this radioactive dust several miles, potentially contaminating the air and water that innocent humans breathe and drink. These munitions were used in both Iraq wars, Kosovo, and training sessions in Puerto Rico. Additionally, soldiers can experience the same ailments and side effects.
2006 Northern Arizona University Study
In April 2006, Northern Arizona University released a study illustrating that depleted uranium may damage DNA. In Iraq, depleted uranium deposits have already had effects on the population, including a 600% rise in both leukemia rates in children and birth defect rates. Northern Arizona University, biochemist Diane Stearns and her students are the first to show that when cells are exposed to uranium, the uranium binds to DNA and the cells acquire mutations. When uranium affixes to DNA, the genetic code in the cells of living organisms can change. Therefore, the DNA can make the wrong protein or wrong amounts of protein, which affects how cells grow. Some of these cells can grow to become cancer. Their findings were published recently in the journals Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis.
The team’s findings have influential implications for the general population and the Navajo Nation living near abandoned mines within Southwestern states in the U.S. and in war-torn countries and the military, which uses depleted uranium. The uranium-mining boom crashed in the ‘1980s, and Stearns estimates that there are more than 1,100 abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation. Northern Arizona University, senior Hertha Woody grew up on the Navajo Nation in Shiprock, NM.
Prior to joining Stearns’ research group, Woody said she was not very aware of heavy metal contamination of soil and water from a large uranium tailing pile near her hometown. But now she wonders about the ongoing health problems of her uncle who worked in the uranium mine at Shiprock. And she worries about others living in the area. “My parents still live there and drink the water,” she noted.
On March 24, 2006, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wa. announced the start of an online petition aimed at convincing Congress to pass his bill insisting that the government investigate the harmful effects of depleted uranium munitions used by American troops.
Legal Help For Victims Affected By Depleted Uranium Munitions
If you or a loved one have developed a serious side effect or ailments as a result of being exposed to depleted uranium munitions, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified pollutants attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).