Gulf War II: Propaganda and Mythology about Health Effects of Depleted Uranium

By David M. Boje, Ph.D. Vietnam War Veteran & Volunteer Organizer at  February 22, 2003 


Join the New Mexico Depleted Uranium Study Team
David Boje's presentation - see 

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See Boje's Call for NM-Dust Chapter; Damacio Lopez - Part I of Presentation on DU --- Part II of Presentation on DU; See DU Factsheet and Medical Consequences of Gulf War I by Dr. Helen Caldicott. Boje's Mar 5 Corbett Auditorium Talk on "Enriched" Uranium and the Sanctions: U.S. violations of Geneva Convention ; See Damacio Lopez Speech to New Mexico State Capital - April 1 2003 ; Lopez July 2003 speech - The Case for an Immediate Ban on the Military Use of Depleted Uranium

Dr. Bishop's reply to Roundup paper: Depleted uranium has made civilians and soldiers sick; Latest News -> Afghans' uranium levels spark alert By Alex Kirby BBC News A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says. More ...
See more documents on DU syndrome

Depleted Uranium: Postwar Disaster For Environment and Health

The Positive side of DU: Audio Interview with Dr. Doug Rokke on Depleted Uranium (Mar 2003)

Depleted Uranium will affect Iraq for years to come

Graphic Images of What DU does to Children - Rated PG-17

DU Spiked with Plutonium Fact Sheet (corrected July 19 2003)

Remains of Toxic Bullets Litter Iraq - The Monitor finds high levels of radiation left by US armor-piercing shells. by Scott PetersonThe numbers of Americans killed and maimed from Gulf War II are only beginning to be toted up. The full count will not be known for at least a decade. Why? because of DU. Real American Casualty Rates.

May 5 2003 - When the Dust Settles Do Armor-Piercing Munitions Pose Threat Long After War? By Karsten Strauss Special to





View our Depleted Uranium Video - Boje's Call for NM-Dust Chapter; Damacio Lopez - Part I of Presentation on DU --- Part II of Presentation on DU; See DU Factsheet and Medical Consequences of Gulf War I by Dr. Helen Caldicott. Boje's Mar 5 Corbett Auditorium Talk on "Enriched" Uranium and the Sanctions: U.S. violations of Geneva Convention. Please print PeaceAware Factsheet on Civilian Casualties of War. And Article Boje, D. M. (2003l). Stop the Orwellian Double Speak: It is Enriched Uranium, not Depleted. Mar 23 03 Roundup submission. 


Importance of DU Study - In March and April 2003, the U.S. government once again used enriched (depleted) uranium weaponry. Once again the U.S. is not going to clean up the battlefield, not going to test veterans for toxic effects, and is attempting to say that DU is completely safe to humans and ecology.

The purpose of this report is to compare and contrast the USA and UK reported claims about the health and ecology hazards of exposure to Depleted Uranium (DU) with the counter-claims of independent investigations. All documents used in this report are unclassified and freely available on the Internet. The focus of the analysis is on New Mexico.  The research questions:  (1) Has there been depleted uranium testing on White Sands Missile Range? (2) What are the health and environmental effects? One side contends that DU has no health or environmental effects. The other presents a case that DU is a weapon of mass indiscriminate destruction to humans and environment.  The Defense industry research reports claim that DU is a more precise weapon, its effects are not long lasting, and that DU is humane because it saves lives. The counter-story is the DU is indiscriminate with dust migrating in the body and environment, it has long-term effects on humans and ecology, and is not only inhumane, but violates international laws  (i.e. Article 147 of Geneva Convention) about sustained impacts of war upon civilian population. We will review the claims and counter-claims, then propose an independent commission be set up to engage in studies of veterans and environmental impacts in DU testing and battlefields.


Background info on the Multiplicity of DUs

Nearly all U.S. uranium comes  from mines in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. According to AEPI (1995) DU Properties Chap 2, "Uranium mining is not subject to the licensing requirements administered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). DOE regulates uranium mining leases on public lands designated for its use and on certain other lands under its control (10 CFR 760 et seq). Individuals may obtain mining rights on public lands through unpatented claims, patented claims and leases." 

AEPI (Army Environmental Policy Institute, 1995) DU Properties Chap 2 explains, "The earth’s crust contains three naturally occurring uranium isotopes: uranium-234 (234U), uranium-235 (235U) and uranium-238 (238U)... While 234U, 235U and 238U have essentially the same chemical and physical properties, the variation in the number of neutrons makes them radiologically different... The 238U is the most abundant naturally occurring uranium isotope and the least radioactive... Various nuclear power and nuclear weapons applications require enriched uranium with a high concentration of 235U by weight, as it is the only natural uranium isotope that can sustain the nuclear chain reaction the applications require."

According to chemistry professor Dan Bishop (I-DUST, Mar 14, 2003 email), 238U is the isotope of uranium that forms the bulk of depleted uranium: 99.8% (before contamination with nuclear reactor waste), with the 0.2% being 235 which was too expensive to remove in the enrichment process whereby 5/7 of the natural 235U is removed (for bombs, power plants, etc.)

The 236U isotope is produced only in nuclear reactors, along with isotopes of plutonium such as Pu-238, Pu-239, and americium and neptunium and on and on. The presence of 236U when we analyze for uranium isotopes is what clues us in that wastes are being - mixed with DU.  In other words, if we see 236U, we can credibly assume that plutonium and the other trans-uranium elements are also present.

The Other Side of the Story is that a very small amount of the isotope 235U is a so-called "natural uranium." To manufacture 235U for nuclear reactors requires that mass quantities of depleted uranium be produced (99.8% of which is 238U). The 238U is less toxic than 235U, but still extremely toxic, and has a half life of 4.5 billion years.  238U is a product of the Plutonium used in Nuclear Power plants. 238U  has been found in the Depleted Uranium dust and in the vehicles left on the Highway of Death in Iraq. 

First, what is missing in the AEPI (1995) report is an explanation of 236U, an isotope not found in natural uranium ore.  It is produced in nuclear reactors. 

Second, DU is sold in the one trillion dollar world weapons market.  

Third, estimates of 9,600 (Tashiro, 2001: 11) to 10, 324 (See Boje, 2003 for calculation) US veterans of the Gulf War have died. I believe that this VA statistic is being kept from the general public.

Fourth, In Afghan and Iraq, cities subjected to allied bombing, uranium concentrations were recorded at 400% to 200% above normal, with birth defects of citizens and USA troops returned home, sharply on the rise.

Next, we examine the use of DU in combat, and various claims that DU is no problem. We conclude with counter-stories.  

For a clear treatment of the Significant Health effects of DU, please see, 

Radiation Exposure and its Effects on the Human Organism

By Dr. Dan Bishop, (Ph.D. – Chemistry) February 25, 2003 



The Use of DU in Combat

According the DU Health Library 320 tons (290,300 kilograms) of DU projectiles were fired by the U.S. during the Gulf War:

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs (Warthogs) – 260 tons
U.S. Marine Corps AV-8 Harriers – 10 tons
U.S. Army and Marine Corps M60 and M1A1 Abrams tanks – 50 tons
Sabot Round  

120mm DU Sabot round

Sabot separating from the penetrator

120mm DU Sabot round
(cutaway) for the M1A1 tank
Sabot separating from the DU


Government Claims that there are no DU Health Hazards

According to a series of USA and UK commissioned reports, there are no health hazards to DU?

For example, the DU Health Library, says, "The voluntary Veterans Affairs DU Medical Follow-up Program began in 1993-1994 with the medical evaluations of 33 friendly-fire DU-exposed veterans, many with embedded DU fragments. An additional 29 of the friendly-fire victims were added to the follow-up program in 1999. In 1998, the scope of the program was expanded to include Gulf War veterans who may have been exposed to DU through close contact with DU munitions, inhalation of smoke containing DU particulate during a fire at the Doha depot, or by entering or salvaging vehicles or bunkers that were hit with DU projectiles. The published results of these medical evaluations indicate that the presence of retained DU fragments is the only scenario predictive of a high urine uranium level, and those with embedded DU fragments continue to have elevated urine uranium levels ten years after the incident. It is unlikely that an individual without embedded DU fragments would have an elevated urine uranium level, and consequently any uranium-related health effects. Those individuals with normal urine uranium levels now are unlikely to develop any uranium-related toxicity in the future, regardless of what their DU exposure may have been in the Gulf War. Those individuals with elevated levels of urine uranium ten years after the Gulf War have not developed kidney abnormalities, leukemia, bone or lung cancer, or any other uranium-related adverse outcome. The DU Medical Follow-up Program will continue to monitor those individuals with elevated urine uranium levels to enable early detection of any adverse health effects due to their continued exposure to embedded DU fragments."

DOD/VA - Environmental Exposure Report - 1998 "The VA, in cooperation with the DoD, has medically evaluated 33 friendly fire victims (Level I veterans) since 1993. These veterans, about half still retaining embedded DU fragments, received the highest DU exposures."

You can click here to read summaries of the various "no DU problems" study reports.

Other Side of the Story - There are a growing number of reports that pursue the other side of the story. These are studies that find significant health and environmental consequences to DU weapon production, testing and battlefield use. 

You can click here to read summaries of the various "DU is a problem" reports


Where is DU tested in the USA?

U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM) confirms the safety of each fielded Depleted Uranium (DU) munition system (note there are other sites, but we will begin here). There are four test centers  licensed to use DU (See DU Cycle Chap 3). You can move directly to those sections of this report by clicking on the following:

  1. JPG - Jefferson Proving Ground
  2. USACSTA - U.S. Army Combat Systems Test Activity (at APG)
  3. WSMR - White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. 
  4. YPG -Yuma Proving Ground
  5. Carlsbad - Trigger manufacturer for nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Socorro, New Mexico (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology does testing in their Energetic Materials Research and Technology Center - EMRTC).

Significant Legal Points about Protecting the Public and Environment from DU Hazardous Substances

  1. DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "The Army has never decontaminated or decommissioned soft-target impact areas at its test centers, although it has disposed of some DU-contaminated soil as low-level waste. It does not expect to decontaminate its test centers, until it terminates the test missions or closes the installations."
  2. DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "The Clean Air Act (CAA) classifies all substances containing radionuclides as hazardous substances (40 CFR 61; 42 USC 7412). Any substance classified as hazardous under CAA is also classified as hazardous under CERCLA (42 USC 9601). However, CERCLA excludes DU from its requirements if the release of DU into the environment occurs in compliance with a valid NRC permit, license, regulation or order (Stover, 1983). Furthermore, RCRA excludes DU in its definition of solid waste (Sharp, 1992)."
  3. DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "NRC allows the Army to bury low concentrations of DU with no restrictions on burial method. Under this option, the concentration of DU must meet EPA standards. In addition, the waste must not expose the public to more than 1 millirad per year (1 mrad per yr) of radiation to the lungs or 3 mrads per yr to the bone from inhalation and ingestion for any foreseeable use of the material or property. In addition, the concentrations must be low enough that no individual will receive an external dose in excess of 10 micro-roentgen ( R) per hour above background. These standards are compatible with guidelines recommended by EPA (42 FR 60956-60959; 46 FR 2556-2563)."


Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad was picked by the federal Energy Department for nuclear manufacturing. Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad is a potential site for the manufacture of pits, which trigger nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Citizens with Questions leader Gene Harbaugh stated in a press release. "Once the facility is built, it will be shrouded in secrecy, and people will only be aware, after the fact, of the dangers involved." See May 24, 2003 story.

JPG - Jefferson Proving Ground

DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "JPG conducted production acceptance testing of DU munitions against soft targets from March 1984 to May 1994 (NRC, 1991b). Figure 3-10 shows the location of JPG near Madison, Ind. From March 1984 to December 1992, JPG tested 90,832 kg of DU. It recovered 21,872 kg or 24 percent of the amount fired (Oxenberg and Davis, 1993). JPG shipped recovered penetrators to the manufacturer for recycling. The Army plans to close JPG in FY95 as part of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and to transfer its DU test mission to YPG. JPG did not install catch boxes, because base closure procedures prevent the construction of new facilities."

Cost of clean up of 152,000 pounds of DU on 500 acres is estimated to be 4 to 5 billion dollars (See Treatise). 


DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "As of December 1992, USACSTA had used about 92,554 kilograms (kg) of DU in soft-target testing. Before 1989, personnel recovered 21 percent of the DU fired at soft targets during periodic downrange sweeps. However, these sweeps exposed personnel to hazardous unexploded ordnance (UXO). In 1989, USACSTA installed catch boxes to limit the spread of DU contamination and to reduce personnel exposure to UXO (see Figure 3-5). These sand-filled three-sided enclosures capture about 85 percent of the DU munitions fired (Oxenberg and Davis, 1993)." 

DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "As of December 1992, USACSTA had used about 92,554 kilograms (kg) of DU in soft-target testing. Before 1989, personnel recovered 21 percent of the DU fired at soft targets during periodic downrange sweeps. However, these sweeps exposed personnel to hazardous unexploded ordnance (UXO). In 1989, USACSTA installed catch boxes to limit the spread of DU contamination and to reduce personnel exposure to UXO (see Figure 3-5). These sand-filled three-sided enclosures capture about 85 percent of the DU munitions fired (Oxenberg and Davis, 1993)."


DU Cycle Chap 3 says, "YPG in Arizona, shown in Figure 3-11, began testing DU research and development (R&D) munitions against soft targets at gun positions 17A and 20 in 1982 (NRC, 1992e). YPG fired 38,590 kg and recovered 18,852 kg of DU during the first 10 years of operation. Catch boxes have not been built at Yuma because approximately 50 percent of the DU is already recovered. Initial estimates did not suggest that catch boxes would offer a significant improvement. However, USACSTA data have shown that catch boxes typically retain more than 85 percent of DU munitions fired at APG. Given these new data, YPG has scheduled construction of a catch box at gun position 17 to support the transfer of JPG’s mission. If the workload requires continued operations at gun position 20, YPG plans to build a catch box at that position, also. YPG has an EA addressing the environmental impact of testing at gun positions 17 and 20. YPG also has an ERM plan and collects soil samples twice a year and sediment samples after major rainstorms. Sample data do not indicate migration out of the impact areas. YPG has contracted LANL to develop a new ERM plan that would better assess the potential for DU migration (Ebinger, 1992b)."


According to DU Cycle Chap 3, "WSMR does not test DU munitions or armor and is not discussed further in this report." However, the counter-story is that they have tested DU munitions on multiple occasions, and there is a significant environmental hazard on-going from that testing. 

According to WSMR, (Hazardous Testing Area site) "The Hazardous Test Area (HTA) facility, located approximately 10 miles from the main post, encompasses approximately 3 square miles nestled in a remote desert valley surrounded by the San Augustine Mountains. The HTA is specifically operated to conduct destructive and operational tests of explosive items to evaluate their safety and operational integrity. The HTA contains four established test beds for static detonation (arena) testing, conflagration testing, bullet impact testing, and 40-foot drop testing. The HTA also has the capability for warhead cutting, drilling, and steamout operations."

Pershing Missile - Impact Sites at WSMR

28 Mar 67 The PERSHING I accomplished a significant first when B Battery, 3d Battalion, 84th Artillery, which was deployed to Germany, successfully launched two missiles simultaneously and a third missile 30 minutes later from Blanding, Utah, into White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).See the video MS Media Player or  RealPlayer  Pershing Two stage missile first fired at WSMR in 1982 (See photo).  Patriot advanced capability 3 (PAC-3) testing as of 2002 was WSMR's main activity (Army Magazine, Dec 2002, "WSMR").

"Today's test customers include such wide-ranging Army programs as Patriot advanced capability 3 (PAC-3), variants of the Army tactical missile system and multiple launch rocket system, including tests of the brilliant anti-tank submunition and the high mobility artillery rocket system, the Stinger and tactical unmanned aerial vehicles" (Army Magazine, Dec 2002, "WSMR").

Counter-Story - In a Legal Notice "SRAM II," printed by the US Air Force in the local Socorro, New Mexico paper (April 6, 1991: p. 5), it says there were to be DU tests conducted at WSMR:

"Finding of No Significant Impact - "The U.S. Air Force (USAF) ... proposes to use White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) for the Development Test and Evaluation... flight testing of the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM II) on B1-B aircraft. ... A total of 16 live launch tests and up to 25 captive carry flights would be scheduled for WSMR over a 27 month period from February 1992 through May 1994. All carrier flight tests would launch and recover at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Five of the 16 tests would contain radioactive depleted uranium. ... All live launches would impact at either the Salt or Mine target site at WSMR."

"Environmental Impacts of the Proposed action - ... "Impact site vegetation would be damaged or destroyed by missile impact and subsequent clean-up operations. The area affected by these operations would be less than one square mile. As a result, there would be a minor adverse impact to vegetation at the target sites."

Van Etten, D. M. & W. D. Purtymum (1994) Depleted Uranium Investigation at Missile Impact Sites in White Sands Missile Range. LA-12675-MS UC-000 49 pages issued January 1994. Distribution of this document is labeled "Unlimited" - Las Alamos national Laboratory, NM. Sponsored by DoD DOE Contract W-7405-ENG-36

Summary  - 10381 (LA-12675-MS) Depleted uranium investigation at missile impact sites in White Sands Missile Range by Van Etten & Purtymum (1994):

"An investigation for residual depleted uranium was conducted at Pershing missile impact sites on the White Sands Missile Range. Subsurface core soil samples were taken at Chess, Salt Target, and Mine Impact Sites. A sampling pump was installed in a monitoring well at Site 65 where a Pershing earth penetrator was not recovered. Pumping tests and water samples were taken at this site. Chess Site, located in a gypsum flat, was the only location showing elevated levels of depleted uranium int eh subsurface soil or perched groundwater. Small fragments can still be found on the surface of the impact sites. The seasonal flooding and near surface water has aided in the movement of surface figments" (Reprinted in ERA Vol. 19, No. 4, p. 375).

Figure 1 - Generalized locatin of Site 65, Chess, Salt, & Mine Sties on WSMR in Southern New Mexico (P. 18 or Depleted Uranium Investigation at Missile Impact Sites in WSMR).

1. Water Analysis

p. 5 of the report - "On June 18, 1991, four water samples were collected from the test holes in and adjacent to the impact area and one sample was collected from the background hole..."

p. 5 - "The total uranium in the water was high, ranging form a low of about 13 (one sample) to 489 ug/L. If the chemistry of of the sample would support rations of 235U/238U, the measurement would determine if the elevated uranium is natural or from missile fragments. Rations of 0.0017 (S-Hole), 0.0037 (N-Hole), and 0.0051 (C1-Hole, impact hole) indicate depleted uranium from the missile fragments (Tabel 4). The uranium was leached from the missile fragment and is moving with the water in the gypsum." 

2. Core Analysis

p. 5 "The total uranium from the background hole averaged 1.3 ug/g while the ratios averaged 0.0079. the total uranium in the impact hole (C1-Hole) was elevated near the surface at 16 ug/g (Table 5). The rations in the upper two samples, 3 and 8 ft, were 0.0002 and 0.0058 respectively indicating some depleted uranium from missile fragments. The total uranium in S-Hole was slightly elevated with some concentrations ranging from 3 to 5 ug/g. Both the cores and water from S-Hole were above natural levels, indicating the presence of depleted uranium fragments in and adjacent to the impact areas."

Socorro - EMRTC test site in New Mexico

The EMRTC test site is located atop Socorro Mountain.  "Since the 1950s weapons containing DU have been tested and developed near communities across the U.S.. One such community is Socorro, New Mexico where DU open air testing began in 1972 and ended in 1993 after pressure from a local citizens group called "Save our Mountain" (International Depleted Uranium Study Team).  Click here to continue with the Damacio Lopez story


Is Depleted Uranium Safe?

Government reports do not agree:

According to the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics report: CHAPTER3.PDF 1996 "

"Metabolism of metallic uranium fragments:  Prior to the wounding of soldiers in Dessert Storm, very little was known about the toxicity of implanted metallic uranium fragments. Previous uranium toxicity studies had been limited to inhaled uranium oxides in uranium workers. Preliminary aspects of animal studies indicate distribution to depot sites throughout the body and potential risks of late effects. Adequate chelation therapy does not exist at this time to increase excretion of this material. therapy does not exist at this time to increase excretion of this material." (p. 3-13)

"Fetal metabolism of depleted uranium: During the next conflict, it is anticipated that young female soldiers will be wounded by enemy depleted uranium weapons. No knowledge exists of the effects of this material on subsequent pregnancies." (p. 3-13).

"The effects on humans of low level radiation, contamination fields, radiogenic munitions, i.e., depleted uranium, and their interactions with chemical and biological weapons have not been evaluated. All preliminary data indicate a high probability that interactions will result in markedly increased numbers of casualties."

SOLUTION: Definitive assessment of NBC threat interactions and NBC [Nuclear, Biological & Chemical] agent modeling will support the strategic design and development of specific preventative and treatment countermeasures" (p. 3-16). 

DU Documents On line that Support the Finding that there are No Significant Health or Environmental Impacts of DU Weaponry.

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in 1999 Toxicological Profile for Uranium. "No human cancer of any type has ever been seen as a result of exposure to natural or depleted uranium."

DOD - Deployment Health Support Directorate's Depleted Uranium Information Library, a gateway to primary source materials relating to the military use of depleted uranium and its possible health effects.

DOD says, "Medical science recognizes that uranium at high doses can cause kidney damage. However, those levels are far above levels soldiers would have encountered in the Gulf or the Balkans. For a more in depth discussion of DU's chemical effects, see the section on Health Effects from the Chemical Toxicity of Depleted Uranium in our Environmental Exposure Report, Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II)."

DOD says, "Radiation - Because depleted uranium emits primarily alpha radiation, it is not considered a serious external radiation hazard. The depleted uranium in armor and rounds is covered, further reducing the radiation dose. When breathed or eaten, small amounts of depleted uranium are carried in the blood to body tissues and organs; much the same as the more radioactive natural uranium. Despite this, no radiological health effects are expected because the radioactivity of uranium and depleted uranium are so low. For a more in depth discussion of DU's radiological effects, see the section on Health Effects from the Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium in our Environmental Exposure Report, Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II)."

DOD - Environmental Exposure Report: Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II) - published in August 1998

The report concludes, "Since 1993, the Baltimore VA Medical Center has monitored 33 Level I veterans seriously injured in friendly-fire DU incidents; about half the group retains DU metal fragments in their bodies. While these veterans have definite medical problems from their wartime wounds, they do not have medical problems due to DU’s chemical or radiological toxicity." (Conclusions).

European Commission March, 2001 report

European Commission March, 2001 report. "Taking into account the pathways and realistic scenarios of human exposure, radiological exposure to depleted uranium could not cause a detectable effect on human health (e.g. cancer)."

European Parliament April, 2001 report

European Parliament April, 2001 report. "The fact that there is no evidence of an association between exposures – sometimes high and lasting since the beginning of the uranium industry – and health damages such as bone cancer, lymphatic or other forms of leukemia shows that these diseases as a consequence of an uranium exposure are either not present or very exceptional."

RAND, 1999 Report. "A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gul War Illnesses." Volume 7 - Chapter 2 Depleted Uranium. By Naomi H. Harley, Ernest C. Foulkes, Lee H. Hilborne, Arlene Hudson, & C. Ross Anthony. Table of Contents

Note: The RAND 1999 study is a literature review. It is not basic scientific investigation.

What is interesting about the RAND 1999 Report is it is nothing more than a literature review: "The literature review examined the extensive published data on radiation that has looked at the relationship between exposure to uranium through various pathways--inhalation, ingestion, and external exposure--and possible health effects." (Chap 3 Concluding Remarks). 

The RAND 1999 Report does conclude something that agrees with the counter-claims, "It would be helpful to conduct further long-term epidemiological studies in veterans of the Gulf War to the degree that the availability of exposure information permits such research." Here are the quotes frequently cited from there report:

"RAND, 1999, says "(N)o evidence is documented in the literature of cancer or any other negative health effect related to the radiation received from exposure to natural uranium, whether inhaled or ingested, even at very high doses."

They add, "Because the radiological effects of DU are less than those of natural uranium and the chemical effects are identical, we can infer that exposure to DU at these levels would also have few health effects on a population"

And, "Very little of the amount of natural uranium that is inhaled eventually reaches the kidney. This is because the body is amazingly efficient at clearing alien substances through a variety of mechanisms. Of the natural uranium inhaled, 75 percent is exhaled and only 25 percent is retained in the lungs. Of the 25 percent uranium initially retained in the lungs, 80 percent is cleared by the bronchial mucociliary mechanism, which results in most of the natural uranium finding its way to the GI tract where most is excreted and only a fraction enters the bloodstream."

And, "In the military environment, DU inhalation exposure may contribute to the total uranium body burden and any health effects that may result from a sufficiently large body burden. When a DU penetrator strikes a hard target, it forms DU dust. From 10 to 35 percent of the original material is aerosolized and approximately 60 to 69 percent of the aerosolized fraction is respirable."

"RAND Corporation’s reviews of the medical and scientific literature on uranium’s and DU’s effects support the conclusion that the exposures Gulf War veterans experienced are unlikely to cause illnesses." (Conclusions form DOD Environmental Exposure Report Gulf II).

On March 5th,  requested Chemistry Professor Dan Bishop (2003) to do a Preliminary analysis of the 1999 Rand Report. He makes 10 critical points, and concludes, "As you can see, I think the report is seriously flawed and unquestionably biased. If we are to take Col. Daxon seriously when he says 'Follow the Science', then our first action should be to toss the Rand report into the garbage!"

United Kingdom Royal Society in May 2001

United Kingdom Royal Society in May 2001. "Even if the estimates of risk are one hundred times too low, it is unlikely that any excess of fatal cancer would be detected within a group of 10,000 soldiers followed over 50 years."

U.S. ARMY ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY INSTITUTE - AEPI - Report on DU June 1995 (main site).

Authors: Daxton, Eric G. LTC, Robert T. Kowalski, Col David O. Lindsay, George P. O'Brien, Tany Palmateer Oxenberg, Jane E. Rael, Stephen Shelton, LTC Donal Silva, Ronald Smith, COL Steven Stone, Lesca Strickland, Bruce Thomspon, & Francisco Torres Tomei. 

Title: "Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the U.S. Army: Technical Report." 

The AEPI Report was written in response to a Congressional request. What are the health and environmental consequences of using DU on the battlefield. The report is a literature review of older studies, plus many policy recommendations. 

Note: The AEPI 1995 study is a literature review. It is not basic scientific investigation.

Table of Contents 

Chapter 2 - DU Properties and Characteristics. "This chapter begins by discussing the properties and characteristics of uranium, including its radioactivity and chemical behavior. It then outlines the life cycle of uranium and depleted uranium from the mining of uranium ore to the production of enriched uranium hexa-fluoride UF6 used to produce the nuclear materials required for nuclear reactors and weapons, and depleted UF6 (DUF6), used to manufacture DU metal for military and civilian applications."

Chapter 3 - THE DU LIFE CYCLE IN THE ARMY "This chapter considers general applications for DU and specific military applications in particular. It describes the regulations, policies and procedures that the Army follows in acquiring, ensuring system safety, producing, storing, transporting, demilitarizing and disposing of DU weapon systems. In addition, this chapter briefly describes the Army’s radiation protection program for all phases of the DU life cycle... 

"DODM 5160.65-M, Single Manager For Conventional Ammunition, covers the demilitarization of military items and implements conventional ammunition policies and procedures. Chapter 13, paragraph A, states, “Demilitarization and disposal methods and procedures must be incorporated into the design and development of new or modified ammunition items. This technology must provide acceptable methods that comply with applicable environmental requirements.” Subparagraph 1d. states, “Included in the design of all new or modified conventional ammunition items is the requirement to develop safe and environmentally acceptable demilitarization procedures.”

Chapter 6 - Health Issues Associated with U.S. Army use of DU

"If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with DU in the body are both chemical and radiological. Small particles generated in fires or during the impact of penetrators on armor may enter the body by inhalation, ingestion (for example, by ingesting contaminated food or water), and by deposition in open wounds. During combat, soldiers may be wounded by metal fragments that contain DU. The solubility of the DU-containing material in bodily fluids is the primary determinate of the rate at which the uranium moves from the site of internalization [lung for inhalation, gastrointestinal (GI) tract for ingestion, or the injury site for wound contamination and injection], into the blood stream and then to the organs. In most instances solubility also determines how quickly the body eliminates uranium in urine or feces." (p. 101).

Findings 8.1 (Some Direct quotes):

Relative to many other [battlefield] hazards, such as unexploded ordnance, the hazards from DU contamination are probably small; however, additional environmental modeling and date are need to support this judgment (p. 179). 
No available technologies can significantly change the inherent chemical and radiological toxicity of DU. These characteristics are fundamental to the element uranium (p. 180)

General Conclusions

Establish a mechanism for scientific peer review of all DU health and environmental testing and research programs (p. 181). 

Analyze Life-Cycle Costs

The Army should determine the full life-cycle cost of DU weapon systems. This analysis must take into account not only production costs, but also demilitarization, disposal and recycling costs; facility decontamination costs; test-range remediation costs; and long-term health and environmental costs. Specifically, the Army should: Recommend changes to the DODM 5000 series (p. 182).
Require that PMs use independent, expert peer review of proposals, data and reports on the health and environmental effects of DU systems. This would make it easier to better estimate full life-cycle costs for weapon systems.


Continue to identify veterans who may have been exposed to battlefield DU. Use the resulting data to develop a protocol to assess the extent of their exposure and manage their care.
Develop a formalized standard procedure to identify and manage DU contamination during medical procedures. Medical personnel should use radiation detection instruments to help locate and remove DU contamination from patients and the treatment facility.
Train medical personnel to manage DU-related health risks.
Develop protocols for managing DU fragments, wound decontamination, and inhalation exposure.
Develop or define procedures to measure the amount of DU internalized.
Continue evaluating and monitoring veterans wounded by DU fragments.
Continue to support research to determine the long-term consequences of embedded DU fragments. Continue follow-up efforts if warranted by the data generated from the Desert Storm soldiers currently under treatment or observation.
Develop models to estimate the radiological and toxicological consequences of DU internalized as a result of inhalation, wound contamination, or embedded fragments.
Continue to identify Desert Storm personnel who were involved in DU friendly fire incidents but were apparently not injured. This process will aid in documenting exposure levels and will provide valuable data on the inhalation potential of aerosols containing DU.

World Health Organization April, 2001 report

Note: The WHO 2001 study is a literature review. It is not basic scientific investigation.

World Health Organization April, 2001 report. "The radiological hazard is likely to be very small. No increase of leukemia or other cancers has been established following exposure to uranium or DU."  Note: This is also a literature review, citing the others studies, many of which are also literature reviews. They study effects on workers exposed to uranium, they repeat claims of study made on 33 soldiers with fragments of DU in their body. However, they do not see effects of the plutonium laced uranium used by the military in theatres of battle on civilian population or on the the thousands reporting DU effects to the VA. 

Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects - Full Report WHO, Geneva 2001 (WHO/SDE/PHE/01.1) Download the full report in sections - English:

- Preface, Executive Summary, Table of contents [PDF 57KB]
- Chapters 1 to 3 [PDF 373KB]
- Chapters 4 and 5 [PDF 511KB]
- Chapters 6 and 7 [PDF 348KB]
- Chapters 8 to 15 [PDF 310KB]
- Annexes 1 to 3 [PDF 483KB]
- Annexes 4 to 6 [PDF 568KB]
- Glossary and Bibliography [PDF 107KB]

The report concludes, "General screening or monitoring for possible depleted uranium-related health effects in populations living in conflict areas where depleted uranium has been used is not necessary. Individuals who believe they have been exposed to excessive amounts of depleted uranium should consult their medical practitioner for examination, appropriate treatment of any symptoms and follow-up"

WSMRAccording to DU Cycle Chap 3, "WSMR does not test DU munitions or armor and is not discussed further in this report." 

According to information presented, there has been testing of DU. 3,200 square miles, largest military installation in the U.S.A. WSMR has fired actual theatre missiles (Pershings) in realistic scenarios. 40,000 rockets and missiles fired to date.  See review above. 

See WSMR Hazardous Testing Area web site


THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DU STORY: Reports that Find Significant Health and Environmental Concerns

For a clear treatment of the Significant Health effects of DU, please see, 

Radiation Exposure and its Effects on the Human Organism

By Dr. Dan Bishop, (Ph.D. – Chemistry) February 25, 2003 

According to Tashiro (2001: 11), as of July, 1999, 9,600 American Gulf War veterans have died. As of May, 2002, 10,324 Deployed Gulf War Vets have died (see PeaceAware's NM-Depleted Uranium Study Team analysis).  (TAMARA: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science) has in peer review, a report, titled: "A Treatise on Military Weapons containing the Radioactive Material" Depleted Uranium"  by Dr. Albrecht Schott (Director of the World Depleted Uranium Center, Germany), Damacio A. Lopez (Director, International Depleted Uranium Study Team (IDUST), U.S.A., & John M. LaForge (Editor, Nukewatch Pathfinder, U.S.A.); with introduction by Marilyn Gayle Hoff.

The Treatise finds that:

 "there are severe health hazards associated with exposure, inhalation, or ingestion of DU" (p. 8). 
"As it decays, DU emits alpha, beta, and gamma radiation" (p. 8). 
Citing Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a noted particle physicist, "Once inhaled, fine uranium particles can lodge in the lung alveoli and reside there for the remainder of one's life... When inhaled uranium increases the probability of lung cancer. When ingested, uranium concentrates in the bones. Within the bone, it increases the probability of bone cancer, or, in the bone marrow, leukemia" (p 9). 
"Radiation has an immediate weakening effect on the immune system of humans when it is inhaled or ingested, creating increased susceptibility to diseases and illnesses" (p. 10). 

The paper is in peer review and will hopefully be available at 

 United Nations Panel discussion of Depleted Uranium - October 26, 1999. Hari Sharma concluded,  "The information gathered so far through the analysis of urine samples convinces us that uranium dioxide produced by the use of uranium weapons finds its way in human lungs through inhalation. Presence of uranium dioxide in lungs in veterans and in the civilian population does put the exposed population to undue risk. It is therefore essential that the use of uranium weapons in warfare must be banned." Panel member, Mr. Fahey asserted, "The RAND Report, I believe, in the future will be largely discredited.

Johnson, Nov 12 2002 Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium. The Johnson study, which examined British, Canadian and U.S. veterans, all suffering typical Gulf War Syndrome ailments, found that, "nine years after the war, 14 of 27 veterans studied had DU in their urine."

Conclusions and Recommendations

The three main studies AEPI (1995), Rand (1999) and World Health Organization (2001) are literature reviews, not basic science studies. The three studies put together pieces of information that do not address the basic question; what are the health effects and environmental effects of battlefield depleted uranium (DU)? Instead the three studies report data from studies of natural DU.  

Instead of funding independent scientific study that is peer reviewed, the three studies parade literature reviews.

We can analyze the three studies by what my colleague Robert Gephart Jr. calls, "Ethnostatistics." Ethnostatistics looks at three areas (see study guide)

1. Where do the numbers come from that are being produced by the studies?

2. How appropriate is the statistical method to the problem and the numbers?

3. What rhetorical tracts are used to tell and shape a story about the numbers included in the study? 

In my view, all three main "DU is no problem" studies, can be faulted in the three areas of ethnostatistics. The numbers are not coming from samples of veterans, civilians, and environments exposed to Plutonium-laced non-naturally occurring uranium.  The statistical procedures used are in question, especially when all three studies rely on literature reviews. Finally, the rhetorical strategy is to focus on the word "depleted" as if the battlefield uranium is no longer toxic. 

The three study set up a firewall around the Pentagon. The Pentagon can say the AEPI (1995), Rand (1999) and World Health Organization (2001) studies say there are no toxic health or problematic environmental effects. They can say with a straight face, "we have done the scientific study and after our literature review, "No evidence is documented in the literature of cancer or any other negative health effect related to the radiation received from exposure to Natural Uranium, whether inhaled or ingested, even at very high doses."  The WHO (2001) study can be used to say "General screening or monitoring for possible Depleted Uranium-related health effects in populations living in conflict areas where Depleted Uranium has been used is not necessary" and add, please consult your local "medical practitioner," as if it is not even serious enough to see a regular medical doctor.  The rhetorical claim of AEPI (1994) is that the government is doing follow-up studies of veterans, but this is only 33 vets hit by fragments from friendly fire in 1990-1991 and an additional 29 from the 1998 Dessert Fox war. 

In this way the Pentagon does not have to do systematic, random sample, comprehensive research of 436,000 veterans from the first Gulf War or the 206,861 who have filed for VA medical benefits. The Pentagon does not have to do a study of the 10,324 veterans who died since their time in the Gulf War. The Pentagon can claim that they have no long-term responsibility for the 1.2 million dead Iraqi civilians, who may have died from DU exposure. Of this 1.2 million, 500,000 are children under five, who can not get medical supplies due to 12 years of USA sanctions. 



CAA - "The Clean Air Act"
DU depleted uranium - NRC defines DU as uranium in which the weight percentage of the 235U isotope is less than 0.711. This is slightly less than the concentration of 235U in uranium ore, which is approximately 0.72 percent (10 CFR 40.4). - See DU Properties Chap 2
DUDOSE depleted uranium air dispersion modeling technique
DU/HE depleted uranium/high explosive
HTA - Hazardous Test Area
JPG - Jefferson Proving Ground
NRC - Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Uranium, a radioactive element, is a silver-white metal in its pure form. It is a heavy metal nearly twice as dense as lead (19 grams per cubic centimeter [g/cm3] compared with 11.4 g/cm3) (See DU Properties Chap 2)
USACSTA (U.S. Army Combat Systems Test Activity) formerly the Material Test Directorate of APG, is licensed to test DU munitions and armor at APG
WSMR - White Sands Missile Range - July 16, 1945, world's first atomic bomb was exploded ta the Trinity site (ATEC report, p. 28)
YPG -Yuma Proving Ground


Recommended Texts

Bishop, Dan (2003). Preliminary analysis of the 1999 Rand Report - done at request of 
Arison, Lindsey H. III (1993). The cover-up of Gulf War Syndrome: A question of National Integrity.

Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War On Iraq

DEPLETED URANIUM: A POST-WAR DISASTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH With contributions of: Felicity Arbuthnot · Rosalie Bertell · Ray Bristow · Peter Diehl · Dan Fahey  - Henk van der Keur · Daniel Robicheau - Laka Foundation May 1999

Morizumi, Takashi (2002). A Different Nuclear War: Children of the Gulf War. Hiroshima, Japan: Global Association for Banning Depleted Uranium Weapons (Printed by Nakamotohonten).  This is a photo and text booklet with some shocking photos (see sample of photos; book cover). 
Tashiro, Akira (2001). Discounted Casualties: The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium. This is a collection of stories and photos. Hiroshima, Japan: The Chugoku Shimbun. Foreward by Leuren Moret. 
The 1991 Gulf War: Environmental Assessments (PDF)
The 1991 Gulf War Impact On Marine Environment and Species

See More Acronyms

NEXT Boje's Mar 5 Corbett Auditorium Talk on "Enriched" Uranium and the Sanctions: U.S. violations of Geneva Convention

This report and others are at the web site