The Lone Star ICONOCLAST
Volume 6 Number 19
What Is Depleted Uranium?
CRAWFORD — The Lone Star Iconoclast last week conducted a test by asking 20 Texans, representing all walks of life
and from different territories of the state, “What are your views on depleted uranium?”
Nineteen had no clue what the interviewer was talking about.
One offered, “Isn’t that the stuff that’s hauled away from nuclear power plants?”
None knew that depleted uranium (DU) is radioactive material being used in military ammunition and none knew that the U.S.
military is utilizing weapons to launch these nuclear DU projectiles in Iraq.
Likewise, not one of the queried Texans was aware that DU poses significant health threats not only to Iraqis, but to Americans
as well, for the radioactivity spreads from continent to continent through the atmosphere and is brought home through soldiers
to their families and associates.
Uranium is one of the heaviest elements found in nature and increases in radioactivity as it decays. After enriched uranium
which is to be used for nuclear fuel is extracted from natural uranium, the leftover nuclear waste, commonly known as depleted
uranium, is stored in steel cylinders for public protection.
Depleted uranium is heavy, cheap, abundant, and is provided free of charge to arms manufacturers as a way of disposing
of the material.
DU rounds are used in a variety of high intensity weapons and is used in a variety of forms. Since the projectiles are
so powerful, the DU gets hot and oxides into aerosol-like particles that can be less than 10 microns or smaller than a white
blood cell and are, therefore, easily inhalable.
According to a study conducted by Iliya Pesic in a paper entitled
“Depleted Uranium — Ethics of the Silver
there are serious long-term effects of DU in Iraq.
“In regions heavily hit by DU, studies have shown that numerous civilians have extensive problems with their immune
systems, malignant cancers (such as ludicrously high leukemia rates), heart problems, and bizarre abnormal birth defects (such
as children born without eyes, ears, tongue, etc.). In some regions, leukemia has become one of the main forms of cancer-related
Pesic continues, “Contaminated agriculture and water supplies help spread the DU dust which continues to hurt people
in diferent regions where DU ammo was not used.”
Pesic notes that veterans and civilians exposed to DU have experienced extensive irreversible damage to kidney and partial
kidney failure. “Cancers related to one’s blood, bone, and immune system become common. There are also various
other biological effects claimed from DU, such as chronic fatigue, respiratory problems, heart problems, digestive organ damage
(e.g. liver failure and severe rectal bleeding), etc.”
For this edition, The Iconoclast contacted some of the top experts in the field of depleted uranium, who agreed to be interviewed:
- Leuren Moret, a Berkeley-based geo-scientist with expertise in atmospheric dust.
- Dr. Doug Rokke, Ph.D., Major (retired) United States Army Reserve, former Director of the U.S. Army Depleted
- Melissa Sterry, a Gulf War veteran who is surviving the effects of depleted uranium.
The interviews are presented in these formats: A Military Perspective, A Scientific Perspective, and A Survivor’s
On the same subject, The Iconoclast is publishing an editorial encouraging the Texas Legislature to provide DU testing
for soldiers who are returning from overseas, so that if problems exist, they can be addressed.
Should Take Immediate Action To Protect Soldiers From DU
The Texas Legislature has its hands full dealing with issues ranging from school finance to appropriate attire for
cheerleaders. Lobbyists are twisting arms and calling in chips to make money for their corporate buddies. In many ways, it’s
politics as usual in Austin.
But this year, Texas lawmakers have a unique opportunity to stand taller than lawmakers in other states, to go beyond what
is expected, to make a global statement while at the same time providing an added degree of service to Texas soldiers and
This opportunity involves passing a bill to screen returning soldiers for exposure to depleted uranium at no cost to our
Depleted uranium or U-238 is created as a waste product during the uranium enrichment process that fuels nuclear reactors.
U-238 is at least 60 percent as radioactive as the raw uranium. DU’s military use is to more effectively enhance armor
and armor piercing weapons.
The states of Connecticut and Louisiana are already considering such legislation since the Federal government has, essentially,
chosen to ignore the DU problem. In fact, Louisiana’s House recently approved such a measure with a 101-0 vote.
These two states are picking upthe ball that the Pentagon refuses to carry by implimenting the U.S. military’s own
DU clean-up and testing regulations requiring U.S. soldiers to be routinely screened and treated for DU contamination.
Much of the world is not aware of the tide of radioactivity that is being unleashed with the use of nuclear weapons in
the Middle East conflicts. Scientists are concerned, as are military commanders and soldiers whose health is deteriorating
from exposure to depleted uranium weaponry. Their exposure is up close and the threat of cancer and other life-threatening
ailments is beginning to sink in.
Scientists are learning that this radioactivity from our weapons in Iraq does not stay in Iraq. Billions of minute radioactive
dust particles are being transported around the world, to remain permanently suspended in the air, ultimately to end up in
human lungs. The particles rest only after they are rained upon to become ground cover on roofs, in fields, in yards, and
in water supplies, creating a web of radioactive land mines stretching across the planet.
Soldiers who are in close contact with DU or who breathe the vapors are, by growing numbers, coming home afflicted. They
then, with close interaction, pass this on to their families, with the possibility of conveying the affliction to their children
in the form of grotesque birth defects.
The bill in Louisiana is a start, but really does not go far enough. Yet first steps are important to eliminating a threat
to generations who have yet to draw their first breath.
Basically, Louisiana lawmakers give returning soldiers the right to have a body fluid screening test for exposure to depleted
uranium and require that adequate training related to DU exposure dangers is provided prior to redeployment.
Actually this is only a partial overall test, for both soluble and insoluble depleted uranium tests are needed for a full
evaluation, but this is at least a start and will provide some screening advantages.
Usually in arguments pitting politics against science, politics wins; but the world cannot pause for politicians to get
up to speed on the deadly endeavor of nuclear proliferation through the use of depleted uranium. DU is not a soldier-to-soldier
combat ingredient. It is soldier-to-civilization, and both lose in the long run, as does our environment and this planet.
On behalf of Texas soldiers, our legislature has the power to initiate testing to learn the degree of the proliferation
in the Lone Star State, to use its clout to begin to educate Texans about the dire consequences of DU, and to lead the way
in providing an added degree of protection for families who have already sacrificed.
It is time to put our hearts where our bumper stickers are. All of us with yellow ribbons on our autos should call our
legislators and demand that this testing be made available to our soldiers. Even if the threat should turn out to be not as
serious as the evidence suggests — and the proof is overwhelming that it is — are we willing to risk the lives
of our soldiers and their families over a few dollars? Is that what supporting our troops is all about?
The Iconoclast encourages both houses of the Texas Legislature to adopt a DU bill similar to that in Louisiana during this
session. This isn’t about politics. It’s about survival and doing the right thing.
— Written By W. Leon Smith, Don M. Fisher, and Nathan Diebenow