[ RadSafe ] uranium smoke is a teratogen
Dan W McCarn
hotgreenchile at gmail.com
Sat May 17 15:55:02 CDT 2008
Dan W. McCarn, Geologist; 3118 Pebble Lake Drive; Sugar Land, TX 77479; USA
HotGreenChile at gmail.com UConcentrate at gmail.com
(I'm not sure if the last message was readable because of formatting, so I'm repeating the last message.)
Dear Ben/James/ etc:
Now that I’ve tried to explain issues about soils and soil concentration of uranium (source term, mechanisms of concentration & “English Garden” values), I will now try to approach the DU issue and known teratogens with a focus on Fathallah’s 2007 paper.
1) The co-incident decrease in nutrients, e.g. folates, deterioration of living conditions, and interruption of power & services during wartime and the war interregnum in Iraq is a much more likely cause of birth defects. A close friend (my sister-in-law) who has lived in southern Iraq since 1978 has repeatedly confirmed issues about CONTINUOUS malnutrition because of Saddam Hussein's behavior toward the Shia majority, especially since the First Gulf War, but also prior to that in the Iran-Iraq War. I would send her family 2X15 kg packages of basic foods, twice a year, while I lived in Austria (e.g. rice, beans, flour, sugar, salt, oil, chocolate, multi-vitamins, etc. as well as winter clothes for the kids & grandkids). I kept her letters available for people interested in the prelude to and consequence of the last three wars in Iraq while I was at the Mining University in Leoben, Austria. These were all smuggled-out of Iraq by Austrian Red Cross (I worked for the Austrian Red Cross off and on since the mid ‘80s) and were hand-delivered to me. They are currently in storage in Austria and are written in German.
After this last war, when she was finally able to call (using a GI’s cell phone), she confirmed these factors. I tend to believe her far more than “reports” from the media. Her letters describe everything from lack of food, water, fuel & medicine, dysentery & cholera epidemics (the calling-out of the dead) to Saddam’s midnight terror squads. She was in agony over her daughter having children in horrible privation and the high likelihood for premature delivery, birth defects and complications in the pregnancies under the UN “Food for Oil” program during which Saddam was building his palaces while the people starved.
Fathallah’s 2007 paper describes (in the order presented)
1) Malnutrition, mentioning folate specifically and giving 8 references to back this up.
2) Deterioration of living conditions (8 references)
3) High Temperature (2 references)
4) Speculative causation by uranium (1 reference and this is to a Chernobyl calf)
These arguments from his paper are presented below.
The first two arguments are sound, the third is possible, but the forth argument is speculative at best.
2) Fathallah speculates that uranium in groundwater might be a part of the causative agent including factors 1-3 from above which are important and demonstrated factors but he presents no exposure data (e.g. renal enzymes, etc.) to support that. As in most scientific papers, he has ordered his arguments from the strongest to the weakest to present his causality claims. He gives no evidence whatsoever to support uranium, except the single incidence of the Chernobyl calf in his reference 34 (and I would argue whether “radiation” is causative) and a false inductive argument for uranium in groundwater as causative.
Importantly, Fathallah does not implicate direct pathways from dust or smoke such as inhalation, but rather indirect pathways through groundwater, and from groundwater into crops because this would throw-off his timing of the observed cleft palates.
Given the endowment of uranium naturally present in the soils of southern Iraq, the added DU is a very tiny fraction of the available U in soils. I suggest that the annual addition of normal phosphate fertilizers represents a significantly larger source for uranium than DU as well as natural uranium from groundwater. You may not be aware, but Syria and Iraq both host uranium-bearing marine phosphorites (phosphate ore), so the uranium-bearing fertilizers are locally available. Iraq used these resources as a source for their uranium weapons program.
Fathallah cites a news correspondent and not a peer-reviewed paper in his reference 34. He is very wrong about the calf, though. Calves experience cleft palates and other deformities from other factors notably genetic, toxic plants and viral infections which have been observed for decades. Fathallah is a surgeon and not a veterinary. His statement, “Calves are never born with a cleft lips” is provably wrong.
Quoting Fathallah, “Peterson S, reported on a calf that born with a cleft lip, which occurs after Chernobyl disaster. Calves are never born with a cleft lips.”
Fathallah’s reference: (34) Peterson S. One of the first calves to experience mutation. This calve has a cleft lip. Daily Chernobyl no. 92. Monday, May 08, 2006
In rebuttal to this statement and reference, see the following:
S. Tzipori B.V.Sc., P. B. Spradbrow B.V.Sc., Ph.D. (1975) THE EFFECT OF BOVINE EPHEMERAL FEVER VIRUS ON THE BOVINE FOETUS, Australian Veterinary Journal 51 (2) , 64–66 doi:10.1111/j.1751-0813.1975.tb09406.x
Ireland: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Current Findings in the Regional Veterinary Laboratories, May 2005:
“In a separate investigation, a high incidence of congenital arthrogryposis with associated cleft-palate was seen in a beef suckler herd. Out of five Charolais-cross calves examined from a herd with twenty-five spring-calving sucklers, four had congenital arthrogryposis, two of which also had cleft-palate. An inherited genetic defect was considered as a possible cause in this case.”
U M Singh and P B Little (1972), Arthrogryposis and cleft palate in a Charolais calf., Can Vet J. 1972 January; 13(1): 21–24.
The Merck Veterinary Manual:
"Crooked calf disease, characterized by joint contractures, torticollis, scoliosis or kyphosis, cleft palate, and combinations of these defects is seen in calves of in cows fed Lupinus laxiflorus , L caudatus , L sericeus , or L nootkatensis between days 40 and 70 of gestation."
3) Uptake of uranium into crops is a function of the labile (as opposed to refractory) uranium concentration in the upper soil zone which is governed by 1) Annual source term (natural and anthropogenic); 2) Years of buildup; 3) Soil conditions (density, porosity, moisture, etc.); 4) Leaching Coefficient; 5) Soil concentration (from the first four factors); and 6) Transfer coefficient to a plant. See McCarn, 2004, IAEA TECDOC-1396, pp.301-304. In order for Fathallah’s hypothesis to be valid, a single contribution of uranium via DU must be very large. Since this is not the case, his hypothesis appears to be completely broken. I can point-out many locations in the USA where irrigation waters are locally quite high in dissolved uranium as well as being annually fertilized by uranium-bearing phosphate fertilizer. Brief excursions aside, the key factor is the labile concentration of uranium in the upper soil zone where the roots are.
Given a back-of-the-envelope comparison, assuming 5 ppm of U in soils in Iraq, the amount of natural uranium in 1 square meter (33.33 cm deep) is about 3 grams per square meter of uranium. If aerosols form 10% of the 75 Tonnes of DU projectiles (the rest buried in the sand) were evenly distributed over southern Iraq (1/3 of 437,072 Sq. Km), this amounts to a 0.000005 g/m^2 increase in uranium in soils. Not very much, and probably similar to that added annually to the soils via fertilizer and groundwater.
My point is that there are several very specific factors that the Southern Iraqi people were universally exposed to that are widely demonstrated to cause birth defects without having to point to a mysterious Agent X. Fathallah’s single reference to and argument for this is highly flawed. I’m not sure why you have anchored onto DU, especially uranium “smoke”, since even Fathallah does not assert this.
P.S. When I worked at the Sosny Nuclear Labs near Minsk (1995-1996), I observed that in the area around Chernobyl, extreme poverty and malnutrition were and still are the single largest contributor to health problems with children and general health in the area followed by lack of health care (e.g. inoculations for kids). During the two years that I worked in Belarus, I only received 80% of the gamma radiation that my kids in Albuquerque were getting. WHO found that diphtheria and pertussis were endemic / epidemic in Southern Belarus around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. These diseases are hardly caused by “radiation”.
Quoting Fathallah (2007):
EFFECTS OF SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS ON THE INCIDENCE AND PATTERN OF ORO-FACIAL CLEFT
Zuhair F Fathallah
"NICEF survey in 1996, revealed serious increases in the prevalence rate of malnutrition particularly in central and southern Iraq19.20. Malnutrition, hypovitaminosis, mineral deficiency e.g. zinc, vitamin B group and folic acid deficiency either there is low supplement during pregnancy or in shortage of supply during interpregnancy intervals (<6 months) when there is short time to replenish folate stores 9-11,17,21-24, all these deficiencies play some role in OFC."
"Deterioration of people's daily living condition due to sanction 3,29 with intermittent water and electricity cut of the supply 19. Water supply and sanitation system remain critical through out Iraq with Basrah area being the most serious as there are no operating waste water facilities 15,26,30,31. Incineration of waste and garbage, exposure to contaminants in a hazardous waste site, and inhalation of mutagens and promutagens may have a harmful effect on mothers 32."
"Effect of high temperature. Experiments on hamsters found that exposure of pregnant hamster to 40oC on a single day of pregnancy result in a different teratogenic effect. Cleft lip and palate were observed with treatment on day 9-10 33. The region of Basrah province is known to have the hottest climate in the area, with the temperature reaching 55Co during mid summer. If this high temperature is combined with cut electricity and water supply, then the effect on pregnant women are disastrous 26."
Then he invokes "uranium dusts".
“The fine uranium dust has been spread by the wind from the war zone to the surrounding region, including Basrah, and it is by now pushing down the soil by the effect of rain to reach the water table, which is used for drinking & irrigating the vegetables for human consumption 34.”
Regarding Cleft Palate & folate:
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf Of Ben Fore
Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2008 11:29 PM
To: Steven Dapra; radsafelist
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] uranium smoke is a teratogen
First, I join those who have thanked Dan McCarn. His knowlege
of uranium hydrology and geophysics in general is vast, and his
messages are very welcome and very helpful.
Thanks again for your repeated request:
> When are you going to present some evidence that DU smoke is a teratogen?
I have, here: http://lists.radlab.nl/pipermail/radsafe/2008-May/009894.html
I am not sure if you are trying to imply that it is not.
Do you think uranium smoke is not teratogenic or not?
Do you think it dissolves into uranyl ions in lung fluid or not?
Do you think that uranyl is teratogenic or not?
James Salsman, as Ben Fore
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