[ RadSafe ] Scotland Herald - Depleted uranium turns earthworms into glowworms

Roger Helbig rhelbig at california.com
Sat Mar 15 22:50:12 CDT 2008

This sounds pretty bogus - worms have significant traces of poisonous
uranium isotopes 


Depleted uranium turns earthworms into glowworms

Fears that radioactive material has tainted ecosystem. By Jasper Hamill

EARTHWORMS WERE pushed into the firing line last week after a resumption of
the testing of depleted uranium shells at Dundrennan.

Significant levels of radioactive uranium isotopes were found in the flesh
of worms at the Ministry of Defence's Dumfries weapons range last year.
Despite concerns from environmentalists and the international community, the
MoD last week started a series of tests of depleted uranium (DU) shells,
supposed "safety checks".

A report published in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring found that
worms in the Dumfries testing ground had significant traces of poisonous
uranium isotopes in their bodies.

Worms are a crucial part of the ecosystem, aerating the soil and aiding the
nutrient uptake of plants. If they are contaminated, it suggests the wider
environment is tainted.

The report said: "Many of the soil samples from the Dundrennan Firing Range
had uranium concentrations and isotopic signatures indicative of
contamination with DU. Furthermore, plants and earthworms collected from
above and within contaminated soils respectively also had uranium isotopic
signatures strongly influenced by DU, indicating that DU was indeed
assimilated into biological tissues."

More than 6000 DU shells have been fired into the Solway Firth at
Dundrennan, amounting to more than 20 tons of nuclear waste. The tests have
been linked to increased rates of cancer and leukaemia in the area.

Opposition to their use is hardening, after a vote at the United Nations
General Assembly, won by 136 states to five, required states to submit files
on the health implications of DU. Britain was one of the states to vote
against it.

The Scottish government criticised the new tests. An SNP spokeswoman said:
"We want to ask the secretary of state for defence about the UK's position
with regard to these international developments. Although we don't have any
powers over defence policy, we are responsible for the health and wellbeing
of the people and service personnel of Scotland."

Depleted uranium is used to make hard tips for armour-piercing rounds. When
they explode, the uranium turns into a fine powder which is carried on the
wind for miles around. In Iraq and Kosovo, the use of the shells has been
blamed for horrific birth defects as well as being implicated in causing
Gulf war syndrome.

Robin Harper, Scottish Green Party MSP, said: "There is no safe place to
test these shells, and there is no appropriate battlefield to use them on
either. The MoD should commit to the ban requested by the European

The MoD insisted the tests would be safe. It said: "Comprehensive
environmental monitoring programmes involving air, water and soil sampling
have been in place at and around Kirkcudbright since the beginning of the DU
munitions trials. The findings continue to show DU does not pose a
significant risk to the environment or to members of the public or site

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