The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

NYTimes: Jan 29: Gulf War Studies Link Cancer to Depleted Uranium


      Published on Monday, January 29, 2001 in the New York Times
      Gulf War Studies Link Cancer to Depleted Uranium
      by Marlise Simons 
      PARIS - The cancer deaths of 24 European soldiers who served as
peacekeepers in the Balkans and the illnesses reported by many others have
stirred alarm in Europe about the use of depleted uranium in munitions
fired from American warplanes during the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo.
      No one has provably linked the use of depleted uranium to the deaths
or illnesses of Balkan veterans, and many scientists consider such a link
impossible. Nor is it clear that cancers are occurring at a higher rate
among former peacekeepers than in the population at large. 

           Background on Depleted Uranium Ammunition
           For much more check out:

           Discounted Casualties - The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium
provided by the Hiroshima, Japan newspaper - The Chugoku Shimbun.

            Also the Federation of American Scientists has a Depleted
Uranium Ammunition page. And the Military Toxics Project has a campaign
against depleted uranium weapons. 

            (left) US Armor Piercing Incendiary [Depleted Uranium] 30mm
      But the fears often stirred by mention of radiation have sent
doctors, military experts and politicians scurrying for explanations.
Among the research they are re-examining is the work of a retired United
States Army colonel who has insisted that some of the illnesses he has
observed in Persian Gulf war veterans may be linked to the depleted
uranium and uranium 236 isotope he says he found in their bodies.

      Asaf Durakovic began examining gulf war veterans when he worked as
chief of nuclear medicine at the Veterans Administration Hospital in
Wilmington, Del., in the 1990's. Since that post was abolished in 1997, he
has continued with his privately funded research in Toronto. 

      In a recent interview, he said his analysis over the last three
years of body fluids of more than 40 American, British and Canadian gulf
war veterans who have turned to him keeps turning up evidence of depleted
uranium and uranium 236, a more radioactive uranium isotope. 

      Dr. Durakovic said that, unlike many other institutions involved in
testing for uranium, he uses mass spectometry tests that measure the
relative abundance of each isotope in the body.

      He said he found depleted uranium, including uranium 236, in 62
percent of the sick gulf war veterans he examined. He believes that
particles lodged in their bodies and may be a cause of their illnesses. 

      Radiation experts in France and Britain say they are now rereading
his work because he was the first to report that he found uranium 236 in
the urine as well as in the bone tissue of gulf war veterans. They suspect
that its presence indicates that other contaminants may be present.

      "This cannot be conventional depleted uranium," said Monique Sené, a
physicist who is prominent in France's large atomic research
establishment, when asked about Dr. Durakovic's findings. "The ratios he
found do not exist in nature. This contains nuclear waste." 

      Dr. Durakovic's work has been circulating among NATO medical staff
members. Several universities have asked him to collaborate, and he has
been invited to brief the government in Italy, which raised the alarm
about sick peacekeepers and where 10 soldiers have recently died. 

      Dr. Durakovic, 60, has worked in radiation biology for over 30 years
in Britain, Canada and the United States. His work won plaudits from the
Defense Nuclear Agency, the United States Army research center. Last year,
he presented his studies at the conference of the European Association of
Nuclear Medicine in Paris. His work is now also described in a newly
published book, "Depleted Uranium, Invisible War," which has received
broad news media attention in France.

      Dr. Durakovic said that when he started tests on 24 American gulf
war veterans he was asked to examine in 1991 by a colleague at a New
Jersey hospital, urine samples were lost and his efforts to get more
precise tests were discouraged. Eventually, he said, he was dismissed. 

      At the veterans hospital in Wilmington, a spokeswoman, Barbara
Howell, said Dr. Durakovic's employment ended because "we did not need a
full-time nuclear medicine physician." She said that no samples had been
lost, and that in all samples tested the levels of uranium "were within
normal limits." Dr. Durakovic said he never got test reports. NATO
officials fear that the concern in Europe could lead eventually to a ban
on munitions containing depleted uranium, which is an exceptionally hard
metal and therefore suited for penetrating tanks. 

      Both NATO and the Pentagon have brought forward scientists and
military experts with evidence that the munitions' low-level radiation is
not harmful and that natural uranium is always present in the environment
and in the body. 

      But European anxiety rose again this month when laboratories in
Switzerland and Finland announced that they had found small amounts of
uranium 236 in shrapnel from American weapons found in Kosovo.

      Pierre Roussel, a physicist at the National Center for Scientific
Research in Paris, noted that the ratio of uranium 236 found so far was
tiny, but added, "The problem is that this isotope can only be produced in
a reactor, where it is accompanied by far more radioactive elements." 

      A Pentagon spokesman who left office with the Clinton administration
said on Jan. 18 that it was known that because of possible production
flaws, some American depleted uranium contained traces of plutonium,
neptunium and americium. He suggested, however, that the amounts were so
minute that they posed no danger. 

      Experts in nuclear medicine in Britain, France and the United States
said in interviews that they questioned the idea that there was no danger
because experiments on animals had shown that uranium particles could get
into the bloodstream, organs and bone, where they could deliver low-level
radiation. They say the mechanism of radiation damage is still poorly
understood and the debate about what might be a harmful dose is still

      "Depleted uranium, mostly U238, has been found stored in bone, and
if it gets into bone, it can reach the bone marrow," said Jean-François
Lacronique, the director of the National Radiation Protection Agency in
France, which oversees safety for workers in France's nuclear power
plants. "Depending on the dose and the length of exposure, any kind of
radiation can cause leukemia." 

      Dr. Durakovic said he believed that there was a fundamental
difference between the effects of depleted uranium outside and inside the

      Outside, he said, it does no harm. But when depleted uranium is
blown up it burns at high temperatures, he said, and "it changes into
uranium oxides - tiny, hard particles that are microns in size." 

      "They can stay airborne as aerosols, be blown around by the wind and
fall down as dust. Because they are the size of microns, people can inhale

      Once inhaled, Dr. Durakovic added, uranium can get into the
bloodstream, be carried to bone, lymph nodes, lungs or kidneys, lodge
there, and cause damage when it emits low- level radiation over a long
period. Critics of Dr. Durakovic's work said his findings were
inconclusive and did not provide a definitive link between uranium and the
illnesses of veterans, but Dr. Durakovic says he does not make that claim
but instead that his tests reveal the "distinct" presence of radioactive
uranium particles in his patients. 

      Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company


This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]