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DU Background Issues

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We urge Australians to lobby the Australian government seeking:



Medical assessment, treatment and long term monitoring of all those who have been exposed to DU in Iraq, Kosovo and any other location where DU has been used. This includes the local people in each place, Australian troops and those of other nations, and any other persons who have may have been exposed.


Clean up of all DU debris from all situations where it has been used, to prevent further adverse health and environmental effects. This includes removing and disposing of penetrator fragments, contaminated equipment, and oxide contamination. Leaving radioactive debris around is environmental vandalism as it contributes to the overall contamination and toxification of the environment.


A ban on DU weapons. Australia should ban using its troops in any alliance that uses DU weapons and should work for an international ban on DU weapons.


Action sheet here


Background briefing:


Scientists call for clean up:
The Royal Society in Britain (a scientific body) has called for the Coalition to reveal where DU weapons were used, and to clean up the debris - ABC interview; April 2003 media release.
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
New Scientist provides a summary of the issues raised by scientific reports, going back to 1999.
Scientists for Global Responsibility


Are the weapons legal?
A number of organisations are arguing that use of DU in munitions contravenes Article 3 of The UN convention on prohibitions or restrictions on the use of certain conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects and protocols (1980)


Outlining the issues

Discounted casualities: Tthe human costs of depleted uranium

Low Level Radiation Campaign
Campaign against depleted uranium
Children of the Gulf War
Traprock Peace Organisation

The European Committee on Radiation Risk argues that one cannot determine the health effects of internal radiation on the basis of studies of external radiation. View executive summary here. The development of this report was supported by some members of the European Parliament and two charitable organisations.

The media release says:

As an example, the risk model presented in the new report is employed to calculate the overall human death toll of all nuclear pollution exposures showing that over 50 million people will die or have died as a result of the radioactive releases up to 1989. Dr Busby commented, ' The model shows clearly that the human race cannot afford to allow contamination of the environment with these radioactive materials. The politicians must realise that if the military are allowed to use Depleted Uranium or tactical nuclear weapons in any future war, there will be terrible consequences for soldiers and civilians both in the area of use and, as Chernobyl has taught, much further away.

US Gulf War Veterans website.
BBC website.

The Hidden Crime of the Iraq War


DU contaminates land and air, causes severe health effects, including death among the soldiers using the weapons, the armies they target and civilians. American and British forces have used depleted uranium (DU) shells in Iraq in 1991 and in the current invasion. They have deliberately flouted a United Nations resolution which classifies the munitions as illegal weapons of mass destruction.


Facts about depleted uranium - manufacture, storage and risks can be found at the
US Department of energy website


The United Nations Evidence


The UN Environmental Program has a post-conflict assessment team. There is a clear shift in their view of DU as their work has progressed, and they now take it much more seriously.


Report on DU in Iraq Desk study on the Environment in Iraq
See especially pages 80-86


Report on DU in Bosnia Hertzegovnia. Depleted Uranium in Bosnia and Hertzegovnia May 2003. See especially pages 48-52, 59-61 and 71. The report points to the problem of water contamination as a result of corrosion of DU weapon debris.


See World Health Organisation fact sheet


The WHO website also includes a detailed scientific monograph reviewing the literature available about DU Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects - Full Report


The precautionary approach:


When reading reports that claim that there is little evidence of health effects, remember that the US Department of Defence, and its UK equivalent have refused to collect the necessary data that would allow an informed judgement to be made. The Royal Society, for example, relies on scientific “modeling” in its reports, and points to the lack of experimental data. Its conclusions are therefore tenuous. It adopts a precautionary approach, calling for a clean up of all sites where DU weapons have been used. }

The Royal Society Media Release calling for information and clean up in Iraq. April 2003
Media Release on DU weapons in Iraq April 2003

Information about DU and DU weapons

Summary of the reports The health hazards of depleted uranium: a combined summary of parts I and II
Full reports. Part II March 2002 and Part I May 2001


A spiritual and ethical response


The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have a long history of opposing war. The Friends Committee on National Legislation in the USA has a program monitoring and lobbying on US weapons policy. Congress resolution 1483, introduced by Rep Jim McDermott, would require certain studies regarding the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium munitions (DU), as well as clean up of U.S. sites that have been contaminated with DU. DU was an ingredient in many U.S. munitions that were used during the first Persian Gulf War and that are currently being used in the U.S.-led war on Iraq.