Depleted Uranium (DU) is uranium
remaining after removal of the isotope uranium-235. It is primarily
composed of the isotope uranium-238. In the past it was called by
the names Q-metal, depletalloy, and D-38, but these have fallen into
disuse. Since depleted uranium contains at least three times less
uranium-235 than natural uranium, it is weakly radioactive and an
external radiation dose from depleted uranium is about 60% of that
from the same mass of uranium with a natural isotopic ratio.
Depleted uranium behaves in the body as does natural uranium.
At standard temperature and pressure (STP) it is a very dense metal
solid. Due to its high density the main uses of depleted uranium
include counterweights in aircraft, radiation shields in medical
radiation therapy machines and containers for the transport of
radioactive materials. The military uses depleted uranium for
defensive armor plate and its pyrophoricity has made it a valued
component in other military applications, particularly in the form
of armor-piercing projectiles.
Its use in ammunition is controversial because of its release into
the environment. Besides its residual radioactivity, U-238 is a
heavy metal whose compounds are known from laboratory studies to be
toxic to mammals, especially to the reproductive system and fetus
development, causing reduced fertility, miscarriages and fetus
It remains debatable whether depleted uranium is
dangerous to human beings at the low quantities in which it could
possibly be ingested from environmental contamination.
Depleted uranium is produced as a byproduct during the process of
forming enriched uranium from natural uranium. Enriched uranium is
used in nuclear reactors. When the majority of fissile radioactive
isotopes of uranium are removed from natural uranium, what remains
is called depleted uranium. Another, less common, source of Depleted
Uranium is reprocessed spent reactor fuel.
DU created by enrichment
can be distinguished from DU created in a reactor by the percentage
of uranium-236, produced by neutron capture from uranium-235 in
nuclear reactors, present in the material.
DU is considered both a toxic and radioactive hazard that requires
long term storage as low level nuclear waste. DU is relatively
expensive to store but relatively inexpensive to produce or obtain.
Generally the only real costs are those associated with conversion
of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to metal. DU is extremely dense, 67%
denser than lead, only slightly less than tungsten and gold, and
just 16% less dense than osmium or iridium, the densest naturally
occurring substances known. Its low cost makes it attractive for a
variety of industrial and military uses.
However, the material is
prone to corrosion and small particles are
Depleted uranium was first stored in stockpiles in the 1940s when
the U.S. and USSR began their nuclear weapons and nuclear power
programs. While it is possible to design civilian power reactors
with un-enriched fuel, only about 10% of reactors ever built utilize
that technology, and both nuclear weapons production and naval
reactors require the concentrated isotope. Originally, DU was
conserved in the hope that more efficient enrichment techniques
would allow further extraction of the fissile isotope; however,
those hopes have not materialized.
In the 1970s, The Pentagon reported that the Soviet military had
developed armor plating for Warsaw Pact tanks that NATO ammunition
couldn't penetrate. The Pentagon began searching for material to
make denser bullets. After testing various metals, ordnance
researchers settled on depleted uranium. DU was useful in ammunition
not only because of its unique physical properties and
effectiveness, but also because it was cheap and readily available.
Tungsten, the only other candidate, had to be sourced from China.
With DU stockpiles estimated to be more than 500,000 tons, the
financial burden of housing this amount of low-level radioactive
waste was very apparent. It was therefore more economical to use
depleted uranium rather than storing it. Thus, from the late 1970s,
the U.S., the Soviet Union, Britain and France, began converting
their stockpiles of depleted uranium into kinetic energy penetrators.
Photographic evidence of destroyed equipment suggests that DU was
first used during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Various written reports
cite information that was obtained as a consequence of that use.
However, while clearing the decades-old Hawaii Stryker firing range,
workers have found depleted uranium ammunition from the
The U.S. military used DU shells in the 1991 Gulf War, Bosnia
war, Serbia bombing, and the 2003 Iraq War.
Natural uranium metal contains about 0.71% U-235, 99.28% U-238, and
about 0.0054% U-234. In order to produce enriched uranium, the
process of isotope separation removes a substantial portion of the
U-235 for use in nuclear power, weapons, or other uses. The
remainder, depleted uranium, contains only 0.2% to 0.4% U-235.
Because natural uranium begins with such a low percentage of U-235,
the enrichment process produces large quantities of depleted
For example, producing 1 kg of 5% enriched uranium requires
11.8 kg of natural uranium, and leaves about 10.8 kg of depleted
uranium with only 0.3% U-235 remaining. (Depleted
Uranium Fraction Calculator designed by The WISE Uranium
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) defines depleted uranium as
uranium with a percentage of the 235U isotope that is less than
0.711% by weight (See
10 CFR 40.4.) The military specifications
designate that the DU used by DoD contain less than 0.3% 235U (AEPI,
1995). In actuality, DoD uses only DU that contains approximately
0.2% 235U (AEPI, 1995).
WISE Uranium Project
Approximate area and
major clashes in which DU bullets and rounds were used in the Gulf
Depleted uranium is very dense; at 19,050 kg/mł, it is almost 70%
denser than lead. Thus a given weight of it has a smaller diameter
than an equivalent lead projectile, with less aerodynamic drag and
deeper penetration due to a higher pressure at point of impact. DU
projectile ordnance is often incendiary because of its pyrophoric
Because of its high density, depleted uranium can also be used in
tank armor, sandwiched between sheets of steel armor plate. For
instance, some late-production M1A1HA and M1A2 Abrams tanks built
after 1998 have DU reinforcement as part of its armor plating in the
front of the hull and the front of the turret and there is a program
to upgrade the rest, for example Chobham armor.
Depleted uranium is used as a tamper in fission bombs and as a
nuclear fuel in hydrogen bombs.
Most military use of depleted uranium has been as 30 mm and smaller
ordnance, primarily the 30 mm PGU-14/B armor-piercing incendiary
round from the GAU-8 Avenger cannon of the A-10 Thunderbolt II 
used by the U.S. Air Force. 25 mm DU rounds have been used in the
M242 gun mounted on the U.S. Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle and LAV-AT.
The U.S. Marine Corps uses DU in the 25 mm PGU-20 round fired by the
GAU-12 Equalizer cannon of the AV-8B Harrier, and also in the 20 mm
M197 gun mounted on AH-1 helicopter gun-ships. The US Navy's Phalanx
CIWS's M61 Vulcan gatling gun used 20 mm armor-piercing penetrator
rounds with discarding plastic sabots which were made using depleted
uranium, later changed to tungsten.
DU penetrator from
the PGU-14/B incendiary 30mm round.
Another use of depleted uranium is in
kinetic energy penetrators anti-armor role. Kinetic energy
penetrator rounds consist of a long, relatively thin penetrator
surrounded by discarding sabot. Two materials lend themselves to
penetrator construction: tungsten and depleted uranium, the latter
in designated alloys known as staballoys.
Staballoys are metal
alloys of depleted uranium with a very small proportion of other
metals, usually titanium or molybdenum.
One formulation has a composition of
99.25% by weight of depleted uranium and 0.75% by weight of
titanium. Another variant can have 3.5% by weight of titanium.
Staballoys are about twice as dense as lead and are designed for use
in kinetic energy penetrator armor-piercing ammunition. The US Army
uses DU in an alloy with around 3.5% titanium.
1987 photo of Mark
149 Mod 2 20mm depleted uranium ammunition
for the Phalanx CIWS
aboard USS Missouri (BB-63).
Staballoys, along with lower raw
material costs, have the advantage of being easy to melt and cast
into shape; a difficult and expensive process for tungsten. Note
also that according to recent research, at least some of the
most promising tungsten alloys which have been considered as
replacement for depleted uranium in penetrator ammunitions, such as
tungsten-cobalt or tungsten-nickel-cobalt alloys, possess extreme
carcinogenic properties, which by far exceed those (confirmed or
suspected) of depleted uranium itself: 100% of rats implanted with a
pellet of such alloys developed lethal rhabdomyosarcoma within a few
On more properly military grounds,
depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is
self-sharpening and pyrophoric. On impact with a hard target, such
as an armored vehicle, the nose of the rod fractures in such a way
that it remains sharp. The impact and subsequent release of heat
energy causes it to disintegrate to dust and burn when it reaches
air because of its pyrophoric properties (compare to ferrocerium).
When a DU penetrator reaches the
interior of an armored vehicle, it catches fire, often igniting
ammunition and fuel, killing the crew, and possibly causing the
vehicle to explode. DU is used by the U.S. Army in 120 mm or 105 mm
cannons employed on the M1 Abrams and M60A3 tanks. The Russian
military has used DU ammunition in tank main gun ammunition since
the late 1970s, mostly for the 115 mm guns in the T-62 tank and the
125 mm guns in the T-64, T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks.
The DU content in various ammunition is 180 g in 20 mm projectiles,
200 g in 25 mm ones, 280g in 30 mm, 3.5 kg in 105 mm, and 4.5 kg in
120 mm penetrators. It is used in the form of Staballoy. The US Navy
used DU in its 20 mm Phalanx CIWS guns, but switched in the late
1990s to armor-piercing tungsten for this application, because of
the fire risk associated with stray pyrophoric rounds. DU was used
during the mid-1990s in the U.S. to make 9 mm and similar caliber
armor piercing bullets, grenades, cluster bombs, and mines, but
those applications have been discontinued, according to Alliant
Techsystems. Whether or not other nations still make such use of DU
is difficult to determine.
It is thought that between 17 and 20 states have weapons
incorporating depleted uranium in their arsenals. They include the
USA, the UK, France, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia,
Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan, Thailand, Iraq and Taiwan. DU
ammunition is manufactured in 18 countries. Only the US and the UK
have acknowledged using DU weapons.
In 1996 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave an advisory
opinion on the "legality of the threat or use of nuclear
weapons". This made it clear, in paragraphs 54, 55 and 56, that
international law on poisonous weapons, – the Second Hague
Declaration of 29 July 1899, Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907
and the Geneva Protocol of 17 June 1925 – did not cover nuclear
weapons, because their prime or exclusive use was not to poison or
This ICJ opinion was about nuclear weapons, but the
"The terms have been understood, in
the practice of States, in their ordinary sense as covering
weapons whose prime, or even exclusive, effect is to poison or
Also removes depleted uranium weaponry
from coverage by the same treaties as their primary use is not to
poison or asphyxiate, but to destroy materiel and kill soldiers
through kinetic energy.
The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, passed
two motions the first in 1996 and the second in 1997. They
listed weapons of mass destruction, or weapons with indiscriminate
effect, or of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary
suffering and urged all states to curb the production and the spread
of such weapons. Included in the list was weaponry containing
The committee authorized a working
paper, in the context of human rights and humanitarian norms, of the
weapons. The requested UN working paper was delivered in 2002 by Y.K.J.
Yeung Sik Yuen in accordance with Sub-Commission on Promotion
and Protection of Human Rights resolution 2001/36. He argues that
the use of DU in weapons, along with the other weapons listed by the
Sub‑Commission, may breach one or more of the following treaties:
the Universal Declaration of
the Charter of the United
the Genocide Convention
the United Nations
Convention Against Torture
the Geneva Conventions
including Protocol I
the Convention on
Conventional Weapons of 1980
the Chemical Weapons
Yeung Sik Yuen writes in Paragraph 133
under the title "Legal compliance of weapons containing DU as a new
“ Annex II to the Convention on the
Physical Protection of Nuclear Material 1980 (which became
operative on 8 February 1997) classifies DU as a category II
nuclear material. Storage and transport rules are set down for
that category which indicates that DU is considered sufficiently
“hot” and dangerous to warrant these protections. But since
weapons containing DU are relatively new weapons no treaty
exists yet to regulate, limit or prohibit its use.
or illegality of DU weapons must therefore be tested by recourse
to the general rules governing the use of weapons under
humanitarian and human rights law which have already been
analyzed in Part I of this paper, and more particularly at
paragraph 35 which states that parties to Protocol I to the
Geneva Conventions of 1949 have an obligation to ascertain that
new weapons do not violate the laws and customs of war or any
other international law. As mentioned, the International Court
of Justice considers this rule binding customary humanitarian
In 2001, Carla del Ponte, the chief
prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia, said that NATO's use of depleted uranium in former
Yugoslavia could be investigated as a possible war crime.
Louise Arbour, del Ponte's predecessor as chief prosecutor, had created a
small, internal committee, made up of staff lawyers, to assess the
Their findings, that were accepted and
endorsed by del Ponte, concluded that:
“ There is no specific treaty ban on
the use of DU projectiles. There is a developing scientific
debate and concern expressed regarding the impact of the use of
such projectiles and it is possible that, in future, there will
be a consensus view in international legal circles that use of
such projectiles violate general principles of the law
applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict. No such
consensus exists at present.  ”
Requests for a
general moratorium of military use
Some states and a coalition of over 80 non-governmental
organizations have asked for a ban on the production and military
use of depleted uranium weapons, The European Parliament has
repeatedly passed resolutions requesting an immediate moratorium on
the further use of depleted uranium ammunition.
Regarding this debate, the above mentioned working paper published
in 2002 by the United Nations Sub-Commission on Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights, at paragraph 171 under the title
“Considering the disturbing reports
on the ill effects of DU weapons in the Gulf and the Balkans, it
is saddening to note that so far appeals for a moratorium coming
from different quarters have not yet prevailed. Killing first
and asking questions later has, however, never been a sensible
The NATO nations and permanent members
of the United Nations Security Council, of France, the United
Kingdom and the United States have consistently rejected calls for a
ban, maintaining that its use continues to be legal, and that
the health risks are entirely unsubstantiated.
The UK government further alleges that cancers and birth
defects in Iraq could be blamed on the Iraqi Government's use of
chemical weapons on its own citizens.
Civilian applications for depleted uranium are fairly limited and
are typically unrelated to its radioactive properties. It primarily
finds application as ballast because of its high density. Such
applications include sailboat keels, as counterweights and sinker
bars in oil drills, gyroscope rotors, and in other places where
there is a need to place a weight that occupies as little space as
possible. However other high density materials are sometimes
preferred because uranium is prone to corrosion.
Other relatively minor consumer product uses have included:
incorporation into dental porcelain used for false teeth to simulate
the fluorescence of natural teeth; and in uranium-bearing reagents
used in chemistry laboratories (eg. uranyl acetate, used in
analytical chemistry and as a stain in electron microscopy).
Uranium was widely used as a coloring matter for porcelain and glass
in the 19th century. The practice was believed to be a matter of
history, however in 1999 concentrations of 10% depleted uranium were
found in "jaune no.17" a yellow enamel powder that was being
produced in France by Cristallerie de Saint-Paul, a manufacturer of
enamel pigments. The depleted uranium used in the powder was sold by
Cogéma's Pierrelatte facility. Cogema has since confirmed that it
has made a decision to stop the sale of depleted uranium to
producers of enamel and glass. 
DU is also used for shielding for radiation sources used in medical
and industrial radiography.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations at 10 CFR 40.25
establish a general license for the use of depleted uranium
contained in industrial products or devices for mass-volume
applications. This general license allows anyone to possess or use
Depleted Uranium for authorized purposes. Generally, a registration
form is required, along with a commitment to not abandon the
material. Agreement States may have similar, or more stringent,
Trim weights in aircraft
Aircraft may also contain depleted
uranium trim weights (a Boeing 747-100 may contain 400 to 1,500 kg).
This application of DU is controversial. If an aircraft crashes
there is concern that the uranium would enter the environment: the
metal can oxidize to a fine powder in a fire. Its use has been
phased out in many newer aircraft; Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas
discontinued using DU counterweights in the 1980s.
Some amount of
depleted uranium was released e.g. during the Bijlmer disaster, when
152 kg was 'lost'. Counterweights are manufactured with cadmium
plating and are considered non-hazardous while the plating is
About 95% of the depleted uranium
produced is stored as uranium hexafluoride, (D)UF6, in steel
cylinders in open air yards close to enrichment plants. Each
cylinder contains up to 12.7 tonnes (or 14 US tons) of UF6. In the
U.S. alone, 560,000 tonnes of depleted UF6 had accumulated by 1993.
In 2005, 686,500 tonnes in 57,122 storage cylinders were located
near Portsmouth, Ohio, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Paducah, Kentucky.
The long-term storage of DUF6 presents
environmental, health, and safety risks because of its chemical
instability. When UF6 is exposed to moist air, it reacts with the
water in the air to produce UO2F2 (uranyl fluoride) and HF (hydrogen
fluoride) both of which are highly soluble and toxic. Storage
cylinders must be regularly inspected for signs of corrosion and
leaks. The estimated life time of the steel cylinders is measured in
There have been several accidents
involving uranium hexafluoride in the United States.  The U.S.
government has been converting DUF6 to solid uranium oxides for
disposal.  Such disposal of the entire DUF6 inventory could cost
anywhere from 15 to 450 million dollars. 
Depleted uranium is not a
significant health hazard unless it is taken into the body. External
exposure to radiation from depleted uranium is generally not a major
concern because the alpha particle emitted by its isotopes travel
only a few centimeters in air or can be stopped by a sheet of paper.
Also, the uranium-235 that remains in depleted uranium emits only a
small amount of low-energy gamma radiation.
According to the World
Health Organization, a radiation dose from it would be about 60% of
that from purified natural uranium with the same mass. Approximately
90 µg (micrograms) of natural uranium, on average, exist in the
human body as a result of normal intakes of water, food and air. The
majority of this is found in the skeleton, with the rest in various
organs and tissues.
The radiological dangers of pure depleted uranium are relatively
low, lower (60%) than those of naturally-occurring uranium due to
the removal of the more radioactive isotopes, as well as due to its
long half-life (4.46 billion years). Depleted uranium differs from
natural uranium in its isotopic composition, but its biochemistry is
for the most part the same. For further details see Actinides in the
Health effects of DU are determined by factors such as the extent of
exposure and whether it was internal or external. Three main
pathways exist by which internalization of uranium may occur:
inhalation, ingestion, and embedded fragments or shrapnel
contamination. Properties such as phase (e.g. particulate or
gaseous), oxidation state (e.g. metallic or ceramic), and the
solubility of uranium and its compounds influence their absorption,
distribution, translocation, elimination and the resulting toxicity.
For example, metallic uranium is relatively non-toxic compared to hexavalent uranium(VI) compounds such as
uranyl nitrate. 
Uranium is pyrophoric when finely divided. It will corrode under the
influence of air and water producing insoluble uranium(IV) and
soluble uranium(VI) salts. Soluble uranium salts are toxic. Uranium
accumulates in several organs, such as the liver, spleen, and
kidneys. The World Health Organization has established a daily
"tolerated intake" of soluble uranium salts for the general public
of 0.5 µg/kg body weight, or 35 µg for a 70 kg adult.
The chemical toxicity of uranium salts is greater than their
radiological toxicity. Its radiological hazards are dependent on the
purity of the uranium, and there has been some concern that depleted
uranium produced as a by-product of nuclear reprocessing may be
contaminated with more dangerous isotopes: this should not be a
concern for depleted uranium produced as tailings from initial
Early scientific studies usually found no link between depleted
uranium and cancer, and sometimes found no link with increases in
the rate of birth defects , but today the damaging
effects of uranium assumption on the reproductive cycle (reduced
fertility, miscarriages, abortions, congenital defects at birth) of
small laboratory mammals (mice, hamsters) are well studied.
There is no direct and definitive proof
that uranium causes birth defects in humans (uranium poisoning of
humans is fortunately a rare occurrence) but it may, at least at
very high doses, given the extreme similarity of mammalian
reproductive cycles at the physical and biochemical levels.
Environmentalist, pacifist and humanitarian organizations, as well
as several left and center-left politicians, especially in Europe,
have expressed concern about the health effects of depleted uranium
, and there is significant scientific and political debate over
Concerns about the use of this material,
particularly in ammunitions, refer to its proven mutagenicity
the already mentioned teratogenicity ,neurotoxicity
and probable carcinogenic and leukemogenic potential
to be due both to its slow radioactivity and to its toxicity, which
regarding carginogenity may act similarly to other heavy metals such
Early studies of depleted uranium aerosol exposure assumed that
uranium combustion product particles would quickly settle out of the
air and thus could not affect populations more than a few
kilometers from target areas, and that such particles, if
inhaled, would remain un-dissolved in the lung for a great length of
time and thus could be detected in urine.
On the other hand, it has been suggested
that the known critical doses for acute (short term) uranium
intoxication could be exceeded in the scenario of farmers living in
a polluted area, and accidentally ingesting contaminated soil, for
example by children while playing, while doses sufficient for a
chronic (long term) intoxication could be reached simply through
daily consumption of contaminated water and food. In practice,
however, measurements made in those areas where depleted uranium
ammunitions were used extensively did not find significantly higher
than average uranium concentrations in the soil, just a few months
after contamination. 
Other studies have shown that DU ammunition has no measurable
detrimental health effects, either in the short or long term. The
International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2003 that,
credible scientific evidence, there is no proven link between DU
exposure and increases in human cancers or other significant health
or environmental impacts," although "Like other heavy metals,
potentially poisonous. In sufficient amounts, if DU is ingested or
inhaled it can be harmful because of its chemical toxicity. High
concentration could cause kidney damage".
Graph showing the
rate per 1,000 births of congenital malformations observed at Basra
University Hospital, Iraq,
as reported by I. Al-Sadoon,
et al., writing in the Medical Journal of Basrah University.
Following the first gulf war, scientists
at the Basra hospital and university have monitored the incidence of
leukemia and other malignancies among children in the Basra area,
and of congenital malformations in newborn children. The data for
the period 1990–2001 show an incidence increase of 426% for general
malignancies, 366% for leukemia and of over 600% for birth defects,
with all series showing a roughly increasing pattern with time.
These data, being the largest set of
epidemiological data available for the Iraqi population, have
received considerable attention; and since it reported a very large
increase in those pathologies which are known or strongly suspected
to be related to uranium poisoning, it has been natural to consider
the possibility that such increase had indeed been caused by
depleted uranium contamination.
The connection, however, is far from
being obvious or proven:
first of all, there is a considerable delay
(at least ten years) between the occurrence of contaminations and
the peak of incidence of malformations and malignancies, which leads
to speculative hypotheses about the process of accumulation of
uranium in the human body
secondarily, there could be other
causes or concurrent causes, for example different kinds of
pollution related or unrelated to the war (e.g. burning oil wells),
or the 1990–2003 Iraq sanctions which led to a collapse of the Iraqi
economy and in general to a dramatic impoverishment of the
population with a sharp decrease of nutritional and hygienic
conditions (which alone, however, cannot explain why the increase in
congenital defects is the highest observed)
In general, the prevailing scientific
view on the matter ,, is that such data, and other
scarce data available, do not conclusively prove a poisoning effect
of depleted uranium; but that the possibility exists and cannot be
ruled out either, and so a precautionary principle would suggest to
suspend the use of such weapons.
On October 4, 1992, an El Al Boeing 747-F cargo aircraft Flight
1862, crashed into an apartment building in Amsterdam. After reports
of local residents and rescue workers complaining of health issues
related to the release of depleted uranium used as
counterbalance in the plane, authorities began an
epidemiological study in 2000 of those believed to be affected by
The study concluded that because
exposure levels were so low, it was improbable that exposure to
depleted uranium was the cause of the reported health complaints.
Gulf War syndrome and soldier
Increased rates of immune
system disorders and other wide-ranging symptoms, including chronic
pain, fatigue and memory loss, have been reported in over one
quarter of combat veterans of the 1991 Gulf War . It has not
always been clear whether these were related to Gulf War service,
but combustion products from depleted uranium munitions are still
being considered as one of the potential causes by the Research
Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, as DU was used
in tank kinetic energy penetrator and machine-gun bullets on a large
scale for the first time in the Gulf War.
A two year study headed by Sandia National Laboratories’ Al
Marshall analyzed potential health effects associated with
accidental exposure to depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War.
Marshall’s study concluded that the reports of serious health risks
from DU exposure are not supported by veteran medical statistics and
were consistent with earlier studies from Los Alamos and the New
England Journal of Medicine.
One particular subgroup of veterans which may be at higher risk
comprises those who have retained internally fragments of DU from
shrapnel wounds. A laboratory study on rats produced by the Armed
Forces Radiobiology Research Institute  showed that, after a
study period of 6 months, rats treated with chronical doses of
depleted uranium coming from implanted pellets comparable to the
levels (in μg/kg) found on average in the urines of Desert Storm
veterans with retained DU fragments, had developed a slight (not
statistically significant) tendency to lose weight with respect to
the control group, as well as two isolated cases of total inability
to eat, one of which caused by abnormal tooth growth.
More importantly, the high dose group,
which was maintained at a chronical level of DU roughly 5 times
greater than found in veterans, had developed a significant tendency
to lose weight with respect to the control group; substantial
amounts of uranium were accumulating in their brains and central
nervous systems, and showed a significant reduction of neuronal
activity in the hippocampus in response to external stimuli. The
conclusions of the study show that brain damage from chronic uranium
intoxication is possible at lower doses than previously thought,
though possibly not as low as those generally measured in veterans
with internally retained DU fragments.
However, results from computer based
neurocognitive tests on veterans have indeed showed a correlation
between the levels of urinary uranium and "problematic performance"
on tests assessing performance accuracy and efficiency. . Also,
veterans with internally retained DU fragments might be more exposed
to cancer and leukemia risks ,, although scarcity of
statistical data makes a precise assessment of such risk difficult.
Some American soldiers more recently employed are also complaining
of symptoms or illnesses which they attribute to exposure to
depleted uranium. The correlation has not been confirmed and the
hypothesis ignores the multitude of other exposures that soldiers in
a war situation are likely to receive.
The U.S. Army has commissioned some research into risks and harms of
depleted uranium. Scientific documents produced by the Armed Forces
Radiobiology Research Institute write of the "numerous unanswered
questions about its [of DU] long term health effects", state that
"moderate exposure to either DU or uranium presents a significant
toxicological threat"  and strongly suggest "low dose DU induced
carcinogenesis" which might affect military personnel following
shrapnel wounds or inhalation .
The above mentioned research projects,
in particular, focus on finding in advance complete toxicological
information for possible replacement materials for depleted uranium
in projectiles, such as tungsten alloys, and on developing drugs
capable of suppressing the biochemical process by which DU
supposedly generates tumoral forms in the human body.
The same institution is also working on
methods allowing a more rapid and efficient detection of uranium
contamination in human beings  and has developed a standardized
procedure for medical assistance to military personnel exposed to
depleted uranium contamination. 
Depleted Uranium: Uses and Hazards
(PDF) an updated version of the paper
presented in the
British House of Commons on December
Press, August 12, 2006, free archived
most recently visited November 1, 2006)
International Legality of the Use of
Depleted Uranium Weapons: A
Precautionary Approach, Avril
McDonald, Jann K. Kleffner and Brigit
Toebes, eds. (TMC Asser Press Fall-2003)
of the threat or use of nuclear weapons
Inspectors Foiled in Search for DU
Uranium UN Resolutions
Human rights and weapons of mass
destruction, or with indiscriminate
effect, or of a nature to cause
superfluous injury or unnecessary
"In its decision 2001/36 of 16 August
2001, the Sub‑Commission, recalling its
resolutions 1997/36 and 1997/37 of 28
August 1997, authorized Mr. Y.K.J. Yeung
Sik Yuen to prepare, without financial
implications, in the context of human
rights and humanitarian norms, the
working paper originally assigned to Ms.
Associated Press &
Reuters contributed to this report:
Use of DU weapons could be war crime
January 14, 2001
Sills et al
Environmental Crimes in Military Actions
and the International Criminal Court (ICC)-United
of American Council for the UN
University, April 2002. Page 28
Final Report to the Prosecutor by the
Committee Established to Review the NATO
Bombing Campaign Against the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia: Use of Depleted
membership includes 85 groups in 22
countries worldwide. The
International Coalition to Ban Uranium
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