[ RadSafe ] FW: [abolition-caucus] Depleted uranium could damage DNA
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Subject: [abolition-caucus] Depleted uranium could damage DNA
Study: Depleted uranium could damage DNA
DOD officials say exposure not a health risk to troops
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, April 15, 2006
WASHINGTON - Depleted uranium, used to harden vehicles and
armor-piercing munitions, might cause damage to DNA in ways previously
not understood by health officials, according to a recently released
study from Northern Arizona University.
The research could again raise questions about the military's use of
depleted uranium, a practice Defense Department officials insist does
not present health risks to troops. The dense metal is a by-product of
the nuclear fuel enrichment process.
Theories connecting Gulf War Syndrome to radiation exposure from
uranium-laced battlefields have
persisted for years. Defense Department
studies show no lingering exposure danger, officials said.
A 2004 study by the Defense Department concluded that the health risks
from inhaling airborne particles of depleted uranium are "very low" in
But the new study, conducted by biochemist Diane Stearns shows that,
separate from any radiation risks, cells exposed to uranium can bond
with the heavy metal particles. That biochemical reaction can cause
genetic mutations, which in turn can curtail cell growth and
potentially cause cancer.
Stearns said the research is too preliminary to prove that
uranium-treated ammunition can cause harmful side effects.
"But it does raise the question of whether we're testing for the right
things when we look at the health effects," she said. "If we're not
seeing radioactivity in people being tested, maybe that's not what we
should be looking for."
bullets coated with DU are used on a battlefield, their impact on a
target could potentially send miniature metal fragments into the air.
Stearns said her work shows the long-term effects on what those
particles could do to the human cellular system have not been fully
A statement from the Defense Department on Friday said the department
has investigated the toxic properties of uranium as a heavy metal, and
that no evidence exists to show that that Gulf War veterans have
suffered any chromosomal or genetic damage from DU exposure.
"(Stearns') studies add another piece to the puzzle, but there is
already a lot of information in this area," the statement said.
Past studies reviewed by the Pentagon have shown that uranium at high
levels can cause kidney damage in animal experiments, but have not
shown a link between the lower levels of exposure from DU munitions and
Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center research team has been
tracking 80 soldiers from the first Gulf War whose vehicles were
peppered with DU rounds during combat, all of whom had some inhalation
exposure to the heavy metal.
Officials said that, to date, none of them has developed kidney
problems or uranium-related cancers. In addition, the group has
fathered 68 children, none of whom has birth defects.
Still, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., has been petitioning for more
extensive testing on DU for more than a year, and recently called on
Congress to renew discussions on the issue at a rally featuring
Physicians for Social Responsibility and the punk-rock group Anti-Flag.
"All I'm really asking for is an independent study," he said in an
interview earlier this month. "It's clear this issue about the health
effects is out there and floating around. But it's also clear the
Pentagon does not want to study
Last summer, McDermott introduced legislation which would mandate a
series of research projects on the material's effects on troops,
civilians and the environment. The bill hasn't moved since then.
A Defense Department spokeswoman said a number of independent groups -
including the United Nations, researchers from the New England Journal
of Medicine, and the Rand Corporation - have all published studies in
recent years supporting the Pentagon's conclusion that depleted uranium
munitions are not a health risk for U.S. troops.
Misinformation about the supposed dangers continues to be a problem,
the spokesman said, despite the department's own extensive testing of
Since May 2003, 2,122 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who
may have been exposed to DU have undergone radiation screenings. Only
eight showed elevated levels, all of whom were still within prescribed
and all of them had munitions fragments in their body
at the time.
Defense officials said they have no plans to phasing out the use of DU
munitions or a ban on its use.
***NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
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