[ RadSafe ] FW: [abolition-caucus] Joint Communiqué from Scientists On the UN Resolution Concerning Depleted Uranium Weapons
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Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2007 7:40 PM
Subject: [abolition-caucus] Joint Communiqué from Scientists On the UN
Resolution Concerning Depleted Uranium Weapons
Joint Communiqué from Scientists
On the UN Resolution Concerning Depleted Uranium Weapons
On November the 1st, the resolution entitled 'Effects of the use of
armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium' was passed at
the UN First Committee by an overwhelming majority. The resolution
was drafted by the Movement of Non-Aligned States and submitted by
Indonesia. We the scientists who have been concerned about the
harmful effects of depleted uranium (DU) weapons, welcome this
The resolution was adopted, because the majority of UN member states
took into consideration the potential harmful effects of the use of
armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium on human health
and the environment (Preparatory Paragraph: PP 4); convinced
that as humankind is more aware of the need to take immediate
measures to protect the environment, any event that could jeopardize
such efforts requires urgent attention to implement the required
measures (PP 3). It was also guided by the purposes and
principles enshrined in the Charter of the UN and the rules of
Humanitarian International Law (PP 1) and showed the
determination to carry forward negotiations on arms regulation and
disarmament (PP 2) on the issue of DU weapons.
We are convinced that, and expect that, this resolution will be the
first step to place the issue of DU weapons on the disarmament
agenda, following the issues of Landmines and Cluster Munitions, and
the beginning of a serious discussion about the deleterious nature of
DU weapons and a possible ban, among the member nations of the UN.
We really respect and appreciate the effort of the leading countries
on behalf of this resolution. We also appreciate the support from all
the countries that voted for the resolution. We request and believe
that these supportive countries will vote for the resolution again at
the Plenary Session in December.
We strongly urge the countries that abstained from voting, to
seriously reconsider the international meaning of the resolution
stated in the PPs and to vote in its support at the Plenary Session,
based on the independent political will of each country.
There is mounting scientific research, including studies reported in
the most recently peer -reviewed papers, which clearly indicate the
potential harmful effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions
containing depleted uranium on human health and the environment. We
think that the previous reports from a number of governmental bodies
and international organizations have not yet fully reflected and
referenced these scientific studies. They mainly focus on the
radiological toxicity to the lung and the chemical toxicity to the
kidneys. It is not right to vote against the resolution based on
those previous reports, without considering these omissions.
The countries which voted against the resolution, should seriously
consider such circumstances, take account of the multilateralism and
dialogue with many other countries which are concerned about the
effect of these weapons and at least come to the table to discuss the
issue. Therefore, we urge these countries to change their previous
stance and vote to support the resolution at the coming Plenary Session.
We, the scientists who have been working as specialists in different
scientific fields including medicine, chemistry, biology, physics,
environmental science and epidemiology, have been deeply concerned
about the potentially harmful effects on the environment and human
health, which may be caused by the radioactive and chemical toxicity
of DU following the use of DU weapons.
DU is nuclear waste produced from the enrichment process and is
mostly made up of the alpha emitting isotope Uranium 238 and is
depleted in the fissionable isotope Uranium 235, as compared to
concentrated natural uranium (NU). DU is somewhat less radioactive
than NU, yet has about 60% of the radioactivity of concentrated NU
(NU in nature is a thousand times less concentrated). DU is mostly
an alpha emitter, a very damaging type of radioactivity inside the
body. DU and NU are identical in terms of the chemical toxicity,
which is also a source of potential damage to the body. With regard
to DUs radioactivity, it is well known that concentrated DU is one
of a number of radioactive materials, which are strictly controlled
by laws in most of the countries of the world.
Uraniums high density gives DU shells increased range and
penetrative power. This density, combined with uraniums pyrophoric
nature, results in a high-energy kinetic weapon that can punch and
burn through armour plating. Striking a hard target, DU munitions
create extremely high temperatures of more than 3000oC. The uranium
immediately burns and vaporizes into an aerosol, which is easily
diffused in the environment, while the shell is penetrating the
target. The uranium particles formed by this heat are unlike forms of
naturally formed uranium in terms of their size (10 to 100 times
smaller). These extremely small particle sizes are known to be much
more toxic and more rapidly absorbed from the lungs than larger
Aerosolized DU dust can easily spread over the battlefield, and can
be re-suspended by the winds especially where the climate is dry,
spreading over civilian areas, sometimes even crossing international
borders. Therefore, not only the military personnel but also the
civilians, including children who are very sensitive to such toxic
substances, might inhale the fine DU particles and internalize them
in their bodies. It was also recognized that DU weapons were actually
used even in highly populated residential areas. The contamination
also continues after the cessation of hostilities. DU particles will
remain in the environment and retain their radiation for decades and
centuries if not longer. Taking these aspects of DU weapons into
account, we consider that DU weapons are illegal under binding
international humanitarian, human rights and environmental law and is
one of the inhumane weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
Uranium is a radioactive element naturally distributed in the
environment. However, we repeat that the very fine particles of DU
created at the extremely high temperatures that result from the
impact of a DU shell on a tank are micron- and nano-sized and can
travel in the body once inhaled. They have no analogue in history. In
addition, the high temperatures at impact sublimate the metals in the
tank around the penetrating holes and in the shell casing, adding
tiny particles of these metals and their oxides to the aerosol which
can be internalized if inhaled, like the uranium, and which are toxic
to the body. We have been facing an entirely new type of
contamination to humans and the environment through these weapons.
It is true that we do not, as yet, understand the full impact of fine
particles of DU oxide on the human body. However, there is a
considerable amount of basic scientific evidence from both animal and
cellular studies (including studies of human lung cells) that suggest
deleterious effects on human health from inhaled DU particles through
both radiological action and chemical toxicity. These data clearly
indicate that the internalized uranium (both soluble component and
insoluble particles) has genotoxic effect (carcinogenic, mutagenic),
for it affects directly and/or indirectly the DNA, which codes the
genetic information of the cell. It has also been pointed out that
the internalized uranium may affect the intracellular organelles and/
or enzyme proteins and damage some of the repair mechanisms of the
cells. These harmful effects are possibly produced in the various
tissues and organs in a body, including potential damage to the
immune and nervous systems. If genotoxic effects are produced in the
germ line cells, it might lead to trans-generational effects. A
teratogenic effect to the fetus was detected in animal studies where
rodents were exposed to DU during gestation; also a number of Gulf
War veterans were found to have DU in their semen. We should in
addition consider the possible synergistic effect of radio-toxicity
and chemical-toxicity from DU exposure.
We think it critical to immediately launch a full-dress, long-lasting
and independent environmental monitoring as well as health and
medical research on possibly exposed populations, both military and
civilian, in the areas where the DU weapons have been used. We should
also pay serious attention to the contamination and possible harmful
health effects due to the manufacturing of DU weapons; a recent study
clearly indicates that the workers of the DU weapons-producing
factory as well as residents living nearby were contaminated by DU.
However, we should also note that it may take many years, even
decades, before we get statistically significant results on affected
populations from epidemiological studies.
In the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which was
adapted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development
(Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, they stated: In order to protect
the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied
by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of
serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty
shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures
to prevent environmental degradation; Principle 15. This
precautionary principle has been confirmed repeatedly in the UN.
It is also recognized widely in the international community as one of
the most important principles concerning the international as well as
the domestic policies for environmental and public health protection.
It is also a valuable and logical principle for us, scientists, when
we take responsibility for our society. The issue of DU weapons
should be also discussed seriously based on the 'precautionary
principle' among the UN member countries.
Considering the basic scientific evidence we already have, it is not
right to continue using DU weapons making the excuse that no
definitive conclusions had been reached in the present limited risk
assessments of the health and environmental impact of DU. We request
all the UN member countries to discuss seriously what concrete
measures are needed, including the immediate clearance of
contaminated remnants, and the protection of the environment and the
public health of contaminated populations following the use of DU
weapons. We request the member nations of the UN to refrain from
using DU weapons, unless they are proved to be completely safe. The
burden of proof is on the users. Furthermore, we hope very much that
the international community will go forward to ban DU weapons, one of
the inhumane weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
Keith Baverstock,Presentation to the Defence Committee of the
Belgian House of Representatives, 20 November 2006, http://
Rosalie Bertell, Depleted Uranium: All the Questions about DU and
Gulf War Syndrome are not yet Answered, International Journal of
Health Services 36(3), 503-520, 2006.
Wayne Briner and Jennifer Murray, Effects of short-term and long-
term depleted uranium exposure on open-field behavior and brain lipid
oxidation in rats, Neurotoxicology and Teratology 27, 135-144, 2005.
V. Chazel et al, Characterisation anddissolution of depleted uranium
aerosols produced during impacts of kinetic energy penetrators
against a tank. Radiat. Prot. Dosim. 105, 163-166, 2003.
Cooper, J.R. et al. "The behaviour of uranium-233 oxide and
uranyl-233 nitrate in rats." Intl. J. Radiat. Biol. 41(4), 421-433,
Virginia Coryell and Diane Stearns, Molecular analysis of s hprt
mutations generated in Chinese hamster ovary EM9 cells by uranyl
acetate, by hydrogen peroxide, and spontaneously, Molecular
Carcinogenesis 45(1), 60-72, 2006.
J.L. Domingo, Reproductive and developmental toxicity of natural and
depleted uranium: a review, Reproductive Toxicology 15, pp. 603-609,
Wendy J. Hartsock et al, Uranyl Acetate as a Direct Inhibitor of
DNA-Binding Proteins, Chem. Res. Toxicol. 20, 784-789, 2007.
Arjun Makhijani et al., Science for the Vulnerable: Setting
Radiation and Multiple Exposure Environmental Health Standards to
Protect Those Most at Risk, Institute for Energy and Environmental
Research (IEER), October 19, 2006. (http://www.ieer.org)
Melissa A. McDiarmid et al, Health Effects of Depleted Uranium on
Exposed Gulf War Veterans, Environmental Research Section A 82,
168-180, 2000 ,(p. 172 on DU in semen of Gulf War veterans).
Alexandra C. Miller (editor), Depleted Uranium: Properties, Uses, and
Health Consequences, Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group,
2007. See Chapter 1 by David McClain and A.C. Miller and Chapter 4 by
Wayne Briner (Neurotoxicology of depleted uranium in Adult and
Developing Rodents), as well as other chapters.
A.C. Miller et al., Observation of Radiation-Specific Damage in
Human Cells Exposed to Depleted Uranium: Dicentric Frequency and
Neoplastic Transformation as Endpoints, Radiation Protection
Dosimetry 99, 275-278, 2002.
Marjorie Monleau et al. Genotoxic and Inflammatory Effects of
Depleted Uranium Particles Inhaled by Rats, Toxicological Sciences
89(1), 287-295, 2006.
Randall R. Parrish et al., Depleted uranium contamination by
inhalation exposure and its detection after approximately 20 years:
implications for human health assessment, Science of the Total
Environment, 2007 October 30 [E-pub ahead off print]
Adaikkappan Periyakarupan et al, Uranium induces oxidative stress
in lung epithelial cells, Arch. Toxicol. 8(16)389-395, 2007.
Diane M. Stearns et al., Uranyl acetate induces hprt mutations and
uranium-DNA adducts in Chinese hamster ovary EM9 cells, Mutagenesis
20(6), 417-423, 2005.
G.N. Stradling et al. "The metabolism of ceramic and nonceramic forms
of uranium dioxide after deposition in the rat lung." Human Toxicol.
7, 133-139, 1988.
Bin Wan et al. In Vitro Immune Toxicity of Depleted Uranium:
Effects on Murine Macrophages, CD+T Cells, and Gene Expression
Profiles, Environmental Health Perspectives 114(1), 85-91, 2006.
H.B. Wilson et al. "Relation of particle size of uranium dioxide dust
to toxicity following ingalation by animals: II." Archives of
Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Medicine 6(2), 93-104, 1952.
H.B. Wilson et al. "Relation of particle size of U3O8 dust to
toxicity following inhalation in animals." Arch. of Indust. Health
11, 11-16, 1955.
Sandra S. Wise et al, Particulate Depleted Uranium Is Cytotoxic and
Clastogenic to Human Lung Cells, Chem. Res. Toxicol. 20(5),
(Originally drafted by Katsumi Furitsu M.D. Ph.D. and Gretel Munroe.
Nov. 20. 2007)
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