Is Depleted Uranium Ammunition Safe or Harmful?

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In summary: DU exposure andneoplasia, has been criticized for its small sample size and methodological flaws (Dolan,2004).There is limited information available assessing the long-term carcinogenic risks associated with embedded DU fragments. McDiarmid et al. (2000) did not find significant differences in the percent of peripheral blood lymphocytes with chromosomal aberrations or sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) obtained from Gulf War veterans who had embedded DU-containing fragments. Their report, which was...one of the first to document a possible link between DU exposure and neoplasia, has been criticized for its small sample size and methodological flaws (Dolan, 2004).
  • #1
DukeTwicep
2
0
In war, the advantages of Depleted Uranium munitions help the United States stomp other countries into the ground.

The United States and its NATO allies maintain that Depleted Uranium dust (a by-product) doesn't cause cancer and birth defects, however, 136 countries are citing other research saying that it does.

Which side do you think is right?


Here is the wikipedia entry:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium
 
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  • #2
Can YOU cite research that shows it causes cancer and birth defects? Governments know as much about biological effects of radiation as your average high school graduate so that's not really an argument.
 
  • #3
Pengwuino said:
Can YOU cite research that shows it causes cancer and birth defects? Governments know as much about biological effects of radiation as your average high school graduate so that's not really an argument.

Before I answer I want to state that your argument goes both ways. USA government and NATO (I would argue that both NATO, EU, UN, etc. are governmental) "...know as much about biological effects of radiation as your average high school graduate...".

I quote from Wikipedia, the exact link I provided in my first post.
"Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal.[7] DU is less toxic than other heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury.[65] It is weakly radioactive but remains radioactive because of its long half-life. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that: "to be exposed to radiation from uranium, you have to eat, drink, or breathe it, or get it on your skin."[66]

However, the Institute of Nuclear Technology-Radiation Protection of Attiki, Greece, has noted that "the aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel."[9] The U.S. Department of Defense claims that no human cancer of any type has been seen as a result of exposure to either natural or depleted uranium.[67]

As early as 1997, British Army doctors warned the British MoD (Ministry of Defence) that exposure to depleted uranium increased the risk of developing lung, lymph and brain cancer, and recommended a series of safety precautions.[68] According to a report issued summarizing the advice of the doctors, 'Inhalation of insoluble uranium dioxide dust will lead to accumulation in the lungs with very slow clearance - if any . . . Although chemical toxicity is low, there may be localised radiation damage of the lung leading to cancer." The report warns that 'All personnel... should be aware that uranium dust inhalation carries a long-term risk... [the dust] has been shown to increase the risks of developing lung, lymph and brain cancers."[68]

Studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure.[5] In addition, the UK Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service in early 2004 attributed birth defect claims from a February 1991 Gulf War combat veteran to depleted uranium poisoning.[69][70] Also, a 2005 epidemiology review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."[10]

Its use in incendiary ammunition is controversial because of potential adverse health effects and its release into the environment.[71][72][73][74][75][76] Besides its residual radioactivity, U-238 is a heavy metal whose compounds are known from laboratory studies to be toxic to mammals.

Metallic uranium is prone to slow corrosion and small pieces are pyrophoric at room temperature in air.[26] When depleted uranium munitions penetrate armor or burn, they create depleted uranium oxides in the form of dust that can be inhaled or contaminate wounds. Additionally, fragments of munitions or armor can become embedded in the body."

You want me to quote the research? Click on the numbers on Wikipedia and you will be redirected to the References section at the bottom.
 
  • #4
DukeTwicep said:
You want me to quote the research? Click on the numbers on Wikipedia and you will be redirected to the References section at the bottom.
Yes, you must link to the research and to the exact part that supports you, you can't tell people "here is a list, go spend a few weeks looking for something that might back me up."
 
  • #5
Alright. Here goes.

http://www.dmzhawaii.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/health-overview-04.pdf

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 7:297–317 , 2004
Copyright© Taylor & Francis Inc.
ISSN: 1093–7404 print / 1521–6950 online
DOI: 10.1080/10937400490452714
297
DEPLETED AND NATURAL URANIUM: CHEMISTRY AND TOXICOLOGICAL EFFECTS

Page 308
DNA Damage/Carcinogenicity
Epidemiological studies indicate a correlation between uranium mining and milling and incidence
of DNA-damaging effects resulting in carcinogenesis in humans (Polednak & Frome, 1981;
ATSDR, 1999). There is limited information available assessing the long-term carcinogenic risks
associated with embedded DU fragments. McDiarmid et al. (2000) did not find significant differences
in the percent of peripheral blood lymphocytes with chromosomal aberrations or sister chromatid
exchanges (SCEs) obtained from Gulf War veterans who had embedded DU-containing
fragments. Their report, which was performed 7 yr after the veterans’ first exposure to DU, noted
that the veterans had urinary uranium concentrations ranging from 0.01–30.7μg/g creatinine (vs.
0.01–0.05μg/g creatinine in the nonexposed individuals). Since DNA damage is dependent on
both dose and duration of exposure, the absence of genotoxic effects may be related to variations
in the parameters examined in this study.
Despite the lack of genotoxic effects resulting from DU exposure, the incidence of cancer has
increased markedly in Iraq following the Gulf War. There are some areas in southern Iraq that have
experienced a two- to fivefold increase in reported cancers. Most of these cases damage the lung,
bronchial tubes, bladder, and skin. In addition, increased incidence of stomach cancer in males,
and breast cancer in females has also been reported, as well as an overall increase in leukemia cases
(Aitken, 1999).
CONCLUSIONS
Recent attention has been given to DU following its widespread use in the Gulf War as it is
incorporated into the body through the skin, the respiratory tract, and through oral exposure.
Although most of the DU absorbed in the body is metabolized and excreted, enough is distributed
throughout the body to raise important toxicological concerns. This review summarizes the known
toxicological data of DU on numerous body systems and parameters, and includes in vitro, animal
and human studies (Table 7). The long-term effects of DU still have to be definitely resolved, and
there is an obvious need for continued studies. The data presented here should serve as impetus for
these studies.
For this report I will redirect you to the compilation table at Wikipedia for which this report is quoted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium#Chemical_toxicity .
That is, among other things, for the cancer part.
About birth defects.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1242351/?tool=pmcentrez

Environ Health. 2005; 4: 17.
Published online 2005 August 26. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-4-17
Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: A review from an epidemiological perspective
Results
Animal studies firmly support the possibility that DU is a teratogen. While the detailed pathways by which environmental DU can be internalized and reach reproductive cells are not yet fully elucidated, again, the evidence supports plausibility. To date, human epidemiological data include case examples, disease registry records, a case-control study and prospective longitudinal studies.

---

Conclusion
In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU.

Here are more reports on: "...Epidemiological studies and toxicological tests on laboratory animals point to it as being immunotoxic,[80] teratogenic,[81][82] neurotoxic,[83] with carcinogenic and leukemogenic potential.[84]..."

------

Wan B, Fleming J, Schultz T, Sayler G (2006). "In vitro immune toxicity of depleted uranium: effects on murine macrophages, CD4+ T cells, and gene expression profiles". Environ Health Perspect 114 (1): 85–91. PMC 1332661. PMID 16393663.
Arfsten D. P., Still K. R., Ritchie G. D. (2001). "A review of the effects of uranium and depleted uranium exposure on reproduction and fetal development". Toxicol Ind Health 17 (5–10): 180–91. doi:10.1191/0748233701th111oa. PMID 12539863.
Domingo J. L. (2001). "Reproductive and developmental toxicity of natural and depleted uranium: a review". Reprod Toxicol 15 (6): 603–9. doi:10.1016/S0890-6238(01)00181-2. PMID 11738513.
Briner W., Murray J. (2005). "Effects of short-term and long-term depleted uranium exposure on open-field behavior and brain lipid oxidation in rats". Neurotoxicolgy and Teratology 27 (1): 135–44. doi:10.1016/j.ntt.2004.09.001. PMID 15681127.
A.C.Miller, D.Beltran, R. Rivas, M. Stewart, R.J. Merlot and P.B. Lison (June 2005).
Radiation- and Depleted Uranium-Induced Carcinogenesis Studies: Characterization of the Carcinogenic Process and Development of Medical Countermeasures. CD 05-2. Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute. NATO RTG-099 2005.

------
Studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure.[5]...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17508699
Rev Environ Health. 2007 Jan-Mar;22(1):75-89.
A review of depleted uranium biological effects: in vitro and in vivo studies.
Miller AC, McClain D.
Source

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Building 42, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA. millera@afrri.usuhs.mil
Abstract

The use of depleted uranium in armor-penetrating munitions remains a source of controversy because of the numerous unanswered questions about its long-term health effects. Although no conclusive epidemiologic data have correlated DU exposure to specific health effects, studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure. Until issues of concern are resolved with further research, the use of depleted uranium by the military will continue to be controversial.


That is some of the research. It would have been easier to just click the link and then click the numbers, like I intended you would. There are doers and there are talkers, I guess I have to be the former one for people's inability to be the latter. Perhaps next time I should order the documents as a gift for anyone who asks and send it to their home address.
 
  • #6
Evo said:
Yes, you must link to the research and to the exact part that supports you, you can't tell people "here is a list, go spend a few weeks looking for something that might back me up."

Yes, of course, pardon me. It would take a week to click the link and then look up the passage I quoted. It's amazing how slow they made the internet, I doubt we will ever get to see instant redirection with fractions of seconds in loading times. Hand me some more straw man arguments please.
 
  • #7
DukeTwicep said:
In war, the advantages of Depleted Uranium munitions help the United States stomp other countries into the ground.

What countries have been stomped into the ground because of depleted uranium - please support?
 
  • #8
DukeTwicep said:
Yes, of course, pardon me. It would take a week to click the link and then look up the passage I quoted. It's amazing how slow they made the internet, I doubt we will ever get to see instant redirection with fractions of seconds in loading times. Hand me some more straw man arguments please.

You do realize that's not how actual research gets done on a topic right? You're basically doing the equivalent of a 10 year old telling his friend the moon is made of cheese because your dad told you 3 years ago.

You're not going to really convince anyone here by saying "look, wikipedia told me and I have this one paragraph out of 400 page report and a conclusion that says more study is needed". You clearly have no expertise in the field and are just doing a 5 minute google search to find things that sound like they agree with you.
 
  • #9
DukeTwicep said:
Yes, of course, pardon me. It would take a week to click the link and then look up the passage I quoted. It's amazing how slow they made the internet, I doubt we will ever get to see instant redirection with fractions of seconds in loading times. Hand me some more straw man arguments please.
You were asked to link to the specific information that backs you up. I don't see it. Please provide it now.
 
  • #10
DukeTwicep said:
...136 countries are citing other research saying that it does [cause cancer and birth defects]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium
I'm not seeing that in the wiki article. Could you reference it directly please (the 136 countries thing).

Also, could you state your opinion of the relevance of that fact, if true: If true that DU causes cancer and birth defects, so what? You didn't say what you think the implications of that are or should be, so right now I just see your OP as being pointless. I suppose perhaps you think it should be banned, but I'd be curious to hear your argument for why just being hazardous would imply it should be banned. There are an enormous number of hazardous materials used not only by militarys, but by civilians in their every-day lives. Being hazardous is not typically enough of a reason on its own to call for banning something.
 
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  • #11
I think the word uranium increases the reaction people have about the risk.

Depleted uranium isn't a radiation risk, but it is a toxic metal. It carries similar risks as being exposed to abestos or mercury - in other words, the risk of this affecting a person's health depends on how much material the person is exposed to.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs257/en/

The controversy deals with how much exposure will be increased by using a toxic metal on the battlefield. For the persons exposed to the highest levels of depleted uranium, dying of cancer will be the least of their worries since they've just been struck by an explosive shell. But there is an increased concentration around the immediate blast site that lasts for quite a while. Not a big enough area, nor a large enough total quantity, for one shell to turn a battlefield into an environmental disaster - and probably not a large enough quantity even if numerous shells are exchanged on the battlefield. But, it's a conceivable risk if you keep having battles on the same site. In other words, the military battles are creating pollution.

In the grand scheme of things, I think there's a lot of other more significant ill effects of war than depleted uranium. And, when it comes to environmental threats, focusing on a factory that puts out an offending chemical for decades is probably a bigger priority than military forces polluting an area for a few years.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #12
As Bob said, the studies you cite rever to toxicological affects of internal exposure to EU. There is no research evidence that the substance - which is significantly less radioactive than natural uranium, with which we all come in background contact - is a radiation hazarard.

As to the toxicological effects, the probability of ingesting or otherwise becoming poisoned by significant quantities of DU in battlefield conditions are remote. Specifically, a long-run study by the DOD of soldiers surviving friendly fire incidents involving DU ammunition during the Gulf War (some of whom had fragments of it lodged inside of them) showed no measurable toxicological effects.
 
  • #13
Yes, from the metals toxicological perspective I see no indication that DU is much worse than any other heavy metal that might be used in alternative munitions.
 
  • #14
the bone health of these guys in another 18 years may not look so good.

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2011 Jan;74(10):678-91.
Longitudinal health surveillance in a cohort of Gulf War veterans 18 years after first exposure to depleted uranium.
McDiarmid MA, Engelhardt SM, Dorsey CD, Oliver M, Gucer P, Gaitens JM, Kane R, Cernich A, Kaup B, Hoover D, Gaspari AA, Shvartsbeyn M, Brown L, Squibb KS.
Source

Department of Medicine, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, USA.
Abstract

As part of a longitudinal surveillance program, 35 members of a larger dynamic cohort of 79 Gulf War I veterans exposed to depleted uranium (DU) during combat underwent clinical evaluation at the Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center. Health outcomes and biomonitoring results were obtained to assess effects of DU exposure and determine the need for additional medical intervention. Clinical evaluation included medical and exposure histories, physical examination, and laboratory studies including biomarkers of uranium (U) exposure. Urine collections were obtained for U analysis and to measure renal function parameters. Other laboratory measures included basic hematology and chemistry parameters, blood and plasma U concentrations, and markers of bone metabolism. Urine U (uU) excretion remained above normal in participants with embedded DU fragments, with urine U concentrations ranging from 0.006 to 1.88 μg U/g creatinine. Biomarkers of renal effects showed no apparent evidence of renal functional changes or cellular toxicity related to U body burden. No marked differences in markers of bone formation or bone resorption were observed; however, a statistically significant decrease in levels of serum intact parathyroid hormone and significant increases in urinary calcium and sodium excretion were seen in the high versus the low uU groups. Eighteen years after first exposure, members of this cohort with DU fragments continue to excrete elevated concentrations of uU. No significant evidence of clinically important changes was observed in kidney or bone, the two principal target organs of U. Continued surveillance is prudent, however, due to the ongoing mobilization of uranium from fragment depots.

PMID:
21432717
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
 
  • #15
Proton Soup said:
the bone health of these guys in another 18 years may not look so good.
What in the abstract leads you to say that? Also, the abstract refers to U 'fragments'. I'm not clear exactly what that means, but it seems clear that is not the same as dust distributed in the atmosphere.
 
  • #16
The danger of mining uranium (one of the citations) is one thing; natural uranium ore is un-depleted. Meaning is actually has radioactive isotopes in it.

The whole point of using depleted uranium is that it's all 235 and not radioactive.

Heavy metal fragments are bad sure; would you prefer lead?
 
  • #17
Antiphon said:
...

The whole point of using depleted uranium is that it's all 235 and not radioactive.
All 238.

Heavy metal fragments are bad sure; would you prefer lead?
Yes, that is the question that DU critics need to answer before continuing the thread.
 
  • #18
mheslep said:
All 238.

Yes, that is the question that DU critics need to answer before continuing the thread.

Quoting from Wikipedia: "Also, the low concentration of uranium-235 that remains in depleted uranium emits only a small amount of low-energy gamma radiation."
 
  • #19
DukeTwicep said:
Really? Not worse than lead or tungsten? Quote your research on that please.
Doesn't work that way here. I'm saying that that we have no evidence presented in thread that U toxicity is worse than any other heavy metal toxicity. Burden of proof is on those that claim it is.
 
  • #20
DukeTwicep said:
Quoting from Wikipedia: "Also, the low concentration of uranium-235 that remains in depleted uranium emits only a small amount of low-energy gamma radiation."
The extent to which 235 remains is the extent to which it is *not* depleted U.
 
  • #21
mheslep said:
What in the abstract leads you to say that? Also, the abstract refers to U 'fragments'. I'm not clear exactly what that means, but it seems clear that is not the same as dust distributed in the atmosphere.

it was this:
No marked differences in markers of bone formation or bone resorption were observed; however, a statistically significant decrease in levels of serum intact parathyroid hormone and significant increases in urinary calcium and sodium excretion were seen in the high versus the low uU groups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypoparathyroidism
In contrast to hyperparathyroidism (hyperfunction of the parathyroids), hypoparathyroidism has been shown to result in increased calcium deposition into bones, accompanied by increased bone density, but at the same time, a higher fragility status, believed to result from faulty bone remodeling in the absence of parathyroid hormone activity. Some reports have described a high occurrence, as high as 50%, of vetebral deformities amongst patients with hypoparathyroidism.

it's apparently an occupational hazard. i don't know what your particle size distinction is about.
 
  • #22
mheslep said:
The extent to which 235 remains is the extent to which it is *not* depleted U.

let's just assume it is depleted in the sense of being more economically useful as ammo and shielding than economically useful as ore to be refined for use as nuclear fuel.
 
  • #23
This thread does not meet our quality guidelines. Locked.
 

Related to Is Depleted Uranium Ammunition Safe or Harmful?

1. What is depleted uranium ammunition?

Depleted uranium ammunition is a type of ammunition that is made from depleted uranium, a byproduct of the process of enriching uranium for nuclear reactors and weapons. It is used in military applications due to its high density and ability to penetrate armor.

2. How is depleted uranium ammunition different from traditional ammunition?

Depleted uranium ammunition is denser and therefore has a higher kinetic energy, making it more effective at penetrating armor. It also has a longer range and is more stable in flight compared to traditional ammunition.

3. Is depleted uranium ammunition radioactive?

Yes, depleted uranium ammunition does contain small amounts of radioactivity. However, the level of radioactivity is significantly lower than that of naturally occurring uranium and is not considered a significant health hazard.

4. What are the potential health and environmental concerns associated with depleted uranium ammunition?

The main concern with depleted uranium ammunition is the potential for long-term exposure to depleted uranium dust, which can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. There have also been concerns about the environmental impact of depleted uranium, as it is not biodegradable and can contaminate soil and water sources.

5. Are there regulations or restrictions on the use of depleted uranium ammunition?

There are currently no international regulations specifically addressing the use of depleted uranium ammunition. However, some countries have banned its use or have restrictions in place due to concerns over its potential health and environmental impacts. The military also has guidelines and protocols for the use and handling of depleted uranium ammunition to minimize potential risks.

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