sigh* Depleted Uranium: Do they really cause such horrible births?


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silverlance
August 11, 2005, 12:46 AM
I've seen some very sad pictures of horribly deformed children in Iraq. Granted, there are deformed kids everywhere, but these folks (and yes, they are anti-war in iraq folks) claim that these births were related to use of DU.

anybody know anything about this?

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Fletchette
August 11, 2005, 01:09 AM
I have seen groups parading around Vietnames children with birth defects. They say it was agent orange.

I do not know if we can definitively link these birth defects to one specific event. Even if the rate of defects is higher in a specific region, there are many other potential causes. Many of these countries also have terrible (domestic) pollution.

So if a child is born with a birth defect after a war, was it becuase or the evil Americans or the national chemical factory a few miles away?

sumpnz
August 11, 2005, 01:31 AM
Not only that, but the Japanese are still claiming old farts who died recently in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as victems of the A-bombs.

Back on topic. I've seen no credible reports that the use of DU munitions has caused any adverse health effects (except to those struck by said munitions during the fighting). Enough of our own soldiers have been exposed to DU dust that if there were significant health effects it should have become obvious by now just within our own military.

IIRC some of the areas where they're claiming lots of birth defects and illnesses from DU munitions were areas that we didn't actually use much if any DU. And some areas where large amounts of DU was expended have not seen such health effects.

javafiend
August 11, 2005, 01:38 AM
I do not know if we can definitively link these birth defects to one specific event. Even if the rate of defects is higher in a specific region, there are many other potential causes

Operation Hades, later changed to Operation Ranch Hand, sprayed 6 million acres of forest in Vietnam, 19 million gallons of defoliant.

"There are many reasons for birth defects," said Nguyen Duc Loi, vice director of the Quang Tri provincial Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs. "But we can see that in cases where parents lived in areas that were heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, the 2.4 percent rate of birth defects is much higher than the national average of 0.6 percent."

Probably just one big coincidence....

Cesiumsponge
August 11, 2005, 01:41 AM
Not to mention reports that DU turns to particulates on striking armored targets. Dust particulate like that gets picked up by wind and easily redistributed over a large area in minute concentrations. It's difficult to imagine how DU can remain so highly concentrated in a few specific areas that it causes elevated birth defects. Wind has, and can carry particulates across entire oceans.

With chemical and biological weapon experimentation/development historically in Iraq along with poor or no EPA-type agencies regulating industry there that I am aware of, I would find it scientifically unsound to point towards DU as a definitive primary source of these birth defects.

Azrael256
August 11, 2005, 01:46 AM
DU isn't likely to cause birth defects in any significant numbers. Yes, it is mildly radioactive, but so are smoke detectors and glow-in-the-dark wristwatches. It is not impossible for it to cause birth defects, but it's way down on the list. Extremely small doses of radiation can be extremely hazardous to a single cell, like an egg or a sperm. On the same note, a pellet gun could be used to destroy an Abrams. Both situations require such a comedy of errors as to make it unbelieveably unlikely that it would happen.

If somebody came up with a real study that surveyed very carefully and determined that there was both an increase in the number of birth defects as well as an absence of other significant contributing factors (toxic/radioactive waste buried nearby, chemical exposures, etc.) in areas where DU munitions were used in significant numbers, then I'd be concerned. It seems to me that every child born with eleven fingers or three eyes is a "DU-related" defect regardless of whether or not there was any exposure to the parents. I'm no doctor, and I've only seen a Holiday Inn Express from the highway, but something tells me that the complete lack of prenatal care, poor nutrition, and general crappiness of life amongst much of the population of Iraq has far more to do with it than DU.

ksnecktieman
August 11, 2005, 01:58 AM
Not enough information here. In the land of "arranged marriages" We have no idea how many were arranged to keep the family line going (can you see a family tree with no branches?). NO, I do not have any facts,,,, does anyone? DU problems? Maybe we should look at the tank and artillery crews that handled them?

Guy B. Meredith
August 11, 2005, 02:26 AM
There was a thread on this not too long back. Long story short is that DU radiation is lower than the normal background radiation we live with every day.

DeseoUnTaco
August 11, 2005, 02:27 AM
It's controversial. On the one hand, if you have a solid piece of DU in the form of a metal object, it's safe to handle. On the other hand, DU that's used in combat doesn't remain in the form of solid metal. It catches on fire, becomes a micro-fine dust of uranium oxide, and spreads. Also, uranium itself is not strongly radioactive but some of its decay products and perhaps some impurities are strongly radioactive. Put that all together in the form of micro-fine uranium oxide dust which people can inhale and injest... well, inhaling a fine oxide dust is a lot different from skin contact with a piece of solid, hard metal.

Also, DU is just one of the many nasty things that are used in war. There are so many compounds used as propellants, explosives, insecticides, and so on. Plus burning oil wells, burning buildings, burning arms depots. There's so much toxic stuff out there that it's hard to link cause and effect.

On the DU topic, I'll say that the safety data regarding skin contact with hard, pure, solid metalic DU doesn't imply anything about the safety of micro-powdered impure uranium oxide dust that is inhaled or injested. Even micro-fine rock dust or wood dust is dangerous. I think the military is trying to move to tungsten as much as possible. It's more expensive and not as good, but probably safer after the shooting is over.

CaesarI
August 11, 2005, 04:31 AM
FACT: DU in vaporized form isn't very good for you.

DU is only in vaporized form if you are inside the tank hit with it.
If you are inside a tank that has been hit with DU, you aren't worried about "long term effects" you are probably dead.

DU puts out *less* radiation than a smoke detector and watches with radioactive lumination.

As for the Agent Orange birth defects account... Statistics informs us that if the national average is .6%, it is not uncommon for there to be a handful of areas with higher than average birth defects. This is why the so-called "Cancer Clusters" were a great big hoax. Just because 1 neighborhood has 50 cases of cancer, and a nearby identical neighborhood has 4, doesn't necessarily mean there's *anything* wrong with the neighborhood. Sometimes, it's just randomness.

Furthermore, anti-war Socialists have been trotting out pictures of poor little babies in iraq since before Gulf War I. They are liars, and that's all there is to it.

-Morgan

Joejojoba111
August 11, 2005, 06:18 AM
Why ask people on the internet? Ther's a 200+ page government report on DU and it's effecs. Simple answer, treat it like Mercury, don't get it in cuts or your eyes or your lungs.

The link between agent orange and defects is really not hard to prove, you have to be particularly stupid not to see it. Furthermore the dioxin cannot be destroyed, it has made a large chunk of the country, for all intents and purposes, uninhabitable. The only solution to cleanse it is to heat the soil several thousand degrees, or cover it with a thick layer of concrete. And dioxin poisoning IS passed on to children.

The use of DU is non-issue, compared to Agent Orange. You could make a strong argument that the fules used to propel rockets are toxic, though! But the fact is that credibility has been lost, and the government can no longer be belived outright. Plus you don't have to go to Vietnam to find the misfigured children.

"As well as spraying the North Vietnamese, the US doused its own
troops stationed in the jungle, rather than lose tactical advantage by
having them withdraw."

"US government scientists claimed that these chemicals
were harmless to humans and short-lived in the environment."

"William Bundy, a presidential adviser, flatly denied that the herbicide used
by America was a chemical weapon, and blamed communist propagandists
for a distortion of the facts about the Ranch Hand operation."

" scientists from the National Institute of Health warned that
laboratory mice exposed to Agent Orange were giving birth to stillborn
or deformed litters, a conclusion reinforced by research conducted by
the US department of agriculture."

"By the time the war finally ended in 1975, more than 10% of Vietnam
had been intensively sprayed with 72 million litres of chemicals, of
which 66% was Agent Orange, laced with its super-strain of toxic TCCD.
But even these figures, contained in recently declassified US military
records, vastly underestimate the true scale of the spraying. In
confidential statements made to US scientists, former Ranch Hand
pilots allege that, in addition to the recorded missions, there were
26,000 aborted operations during which 260,000 gallons of herbicide
were dumped. US military regulations required all spray planes or
helicopters to return to base empty and one pilot, formerly stationed
at Bien Hoa air base between 1968 and 1969, claims that he regularly
jettisoned his chemical load into the Long Binh reservoir."

" It is extremely difficult to decontaminate humans or the soil. A World
Health Organisation briefing paper warns: "Once TCCD has entered the
body it is there to stay due to its uncanny ability to dissolve in
fats and to its rock solid chemical stability." At Aluoi, the
researchers recommended the immediate evacuation of the worst affected
villages, but to be certain of containing this hot spot, the WHO also
recommends searing the land with temperatures of more than 1,000C, or
encasing it in concrete before treating it chemically."
http://www.bhopal.org/spectreorange.html

P.S. I just remembered that there are no deformed babies in IRaq, because I saw on the news in 1991 that Saddam Hussein walked through hospitals killing babies.

dolanp
August 11, 2005, 10:19 AM
The DU thing is hyped-up anti-military stuff IMO. There have been reports (one very recently) that could not identify any increased risk. Yes when DU hits something and vaporizes this is bad for you to breathe in, but that's no different than lead.

GT
August 11, 2005, 10:35 AM
Joe: The link between agent orange and defects is really not hard to prove, you have to be particularly stupid not to see it.
Not so sure about that.

Dioxin is not a mutator. It is carcinogenic and very toxic, but birth defects? I don't think so.

Remember that the Vietnamese are Communists with little or no quality of life or medical care so the chance of getting born with a defect is probably higher than getting born without one (hyperbole alert).

I followed your link to a "Guradian" article (a British newspaper with socialist/communist leanings). This is like quoting the NYT on gun control issues.

Try this link to the Cato Institute which discusses the non-effect of Agent Orange on aircrew who darn near drank the stuff while dumping it on Vietnam.
http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-mg091996.html

Bad chemical, bad idea? Sure.
But when there is a chance of prying money out of the USA then all kinds of junk science will surface.

G

PS sorry about contributing to the thread hijack.

DelayedReaction
August 11, 2005, 01:23 PM
I suspect that there are other things that are far nastier that would cause elevated levels of cancer and birth defects. War zones aren't exactly the most health concious or environmentally friendly areas.

Gifted
August 11, 2005, 01:27 PM
DU MSDS (http://www.varian.com/shared/oncy/msds/depleteduranium.pdf) (.PDF)

It's not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Using bogus research doesn't help the cause. Someone needs to do a long, thorough study that takes everything into account. It'll never happen though, because the .gov already knows it's not a big deal, and the opponents won't fund it, because they know it'll screw them over.

Sindawe
August 11, 2005, 01:47 PM
Dioxin is not a mutator. It is carcinogenic and very toxic, but birth defects? I don't think so Incorrect. Dioxin is a listed teratogen, known to cause birth defects in many species. See this link (http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC35857) under Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity. A chemical does not need to cause changes in the genome to produce birth defects.

On DU, I concur DeseoUnTaco views. As a solid mass, DU is most dangerous to those it is shot at. The yet unknown issues are what occurs when it is present in the environment in the form of oxides and small particulates. We should have some good answer in about five years. The experiment is currently taking place in the lab known formally as Iraq. It'll never happen though, because the .gov already knows it's not a big deal You really trust those people? Brother, can I interest you in bridge? Only used on sundays by little old ladies on their way to church.

GT
August 11, 2005, 02:53 PM
Incorrect. Dioxin is a listed teratogen, known to cause birth defects in many species.

But not in humans

G

DeseoUnTaco
August 11, 2005, 03:13 PM
I'm sure that AO causes birth defects. I knew someone who had served as a pilot in Viet Nam. He was healthy, no family birth defect history, his wife was the same way. They had not one but two severely deformed children. Ok, birth defects happen by chance one in 10,000 or whatever, but to have two in a row like that? Yes I know this is just an anecdote, is not scientifically valid, etc. Kinda like before they did studies on it, people knew that smoking causes all kinds of medical problems. Even without the studies people could see the effects quite clearly.
On DU, I concur DeseoUnTaco views. As a solid mass, DU is most dangerous to those it is shot at. The yet unknown issues are what occurs when it is present in the environment in the form of oxides and small particulates. We should have some good answer in about five years. The experiment is currently taking place in the lab known formally as Iraq.
Thank you. The only scientific study I'll ever believe about DU is if they do it this way:

Go around a battlefield where DU has been used. Collect samples and figure out all the different forms that are present. Figure out particle sizes, oxide composition, even particle shape if that is possible. Check from several different battlefields; there's probably some variation. There's probably some variation among weapons, too. Maybe one company used one composition of DU and another contractor used a different composition. They need to basically do a survey of what kind of DU residues are out there because some may have very different effects from others.
Make up a "recipe" that duplicates this. Use real DU (impurities and isotopes and all) from real weapons to make the oxides in the same composition and physical shapes as battlefield DU samples.
Get some lab animals that have similar sensitivity to humans and make them live with this battlefield-formula DU dust for an extended period of time. They should get exposure to it in the air and in their food. Remember, Iraq is a lot dustier than the US. Particles don't stay in the air very long here in the US, and stuff that's in the ground stays in the ground. In Iraq, the air fills up with particles (sandstorms) and people go out and live their lives as much as possible with the sand in the air. The study needs to take that into account. Scattering some powder that stays in the ground is not the same as having dust that's in the air that people or lab animals are breathing.
Then see what happens to them

Short of that, it's not a real study. Taking a solid block of pure, laboratory-grade DU and saying "that's safe" is nothing like the study I described above. If such a study has been done, great. Until then, we're all just speculating. As someone who knows something in this subject matter, it seems very possible to me that the stuff is dangerous. Or not.

CaesarI
August 12, 2005, 12:21 AM
The only scientific study I'll ever believe about DU is if they do it this way:
Does it strike you as just a tad arrogant to declare that the only scientific study on DU you'll believe is the one you propose?

DU is a heavy metal, with a scary name. You are firing this outdoors, and even in the desert, there's an awful lot of air within which to dissolve this stuff. The dangerousness of DU for people not inside the tank that is struck with it, is not materially different from the danger of lead or tungsten.

If you've got a guy grinding the stuff and blowing a large mist of it in the air in a closed area, it's prolly gonna be unhealthy. Given the mass of the projectiles in question, and given the mass of the air in which it is dissolved, the concentrations are not going to be toxic.

Use real DU (impurities and isotopes and all)
Know a lot about DU huh? The other isotopes are either very unstable, or very radioactive. And DU is very much pure U238, close to 99.9% US Army alloys use less than 4% Titanium.

-Morgan

Newton
August 12, 2005, 01:43 PM
...no, but Democrats do :evil:

Joejojoba111
August 13, 2005, 12:05 PM
Interesting stuff!

I'm telling you there's a 200+ page report on the effects of DU written by scientists writing for congress, and it's not biased. Risks really are low as long as it's outside of your body.

Out of curiousity, does anyone know if the U234 is removed in the magnetic-gas-centrifuge enrichment process along with the 235? Since it's lighter than 238 I would guess yes?

GunnySkox
August 13, 2005, 12:35 PM
I had to do a report on Depleted Uranium for my "Environmental Science" my Senior Year in High School. I don't even pretend to call it "exhaustively researched" or that I consumed any 200-page report by the government on DU, but everything I read about DU (much of which was anecdotal evidence from Gulf War veterans and summaries of bigger things and explanations of why DU will ruin your business if it gets into your lungs or bloodstream) gave me a serious case of the jibblies about using it in ammunition or armor.

The "big deal" about DU is that yes, it is slightly radioactive. It puts out very, very little Gamma radiation (which are neutrons, and is the kind of stuff nuke plants have giant concrete and steel domes to keep in). However, Alpha and Beta decay particles (lesser radiation, they're not nearly as energetic or dangerous as Gamma particles) abound. Normally this isn't a problem; a piece of paper can put a stop to an Alpha particle, and the outer layers of your skin will handily stop Beta particle in its tracks. However, if you take a big, deep double-lungfull of little bits of Depleted Uranium (say, if you're in one of the variants of the Abrams with a layer of DU in its armor and it takes a penetrating hit, or if you happen to be nearby when a DU penetrator punches through a tank/building/etc. and bursts into flame) and those chunklets of heavy metal get all up in your lung tissues, and then into your bloodstream, there's nothing to protect your cells near the particles from the Alpha and Beta radiation, and the tissues surrounding those particles are in deep trouble.

I think more conclusive studies need to be done by independent groups who don't have an agenda either in favor or against the government/military/etc.

~Slam_Fire

CaesarI
August 13, 2005, 01:33 PM
Gamma radiation is not neutrons. It's electrio-magnetic radiation. Like light, radio waves, and microwaves.

U234 is not removed in the standard process since there is so little of it naturally, it is very difficult to remove anymore.

-Morgan

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