What Is Depleted Uranium?
Depleted Uranium (DU) is a toxic, radioactive heavy metal that is the waste byproduct of the uranium enrichment process when producing nuclear weapons and uranium for nuclear reactors. Because this radioactive waste is plentiful and 1.7 times more dense than lead, the United States government uses DU in munitions/ammunition which are extremely effective at piercing armored vehicles. However, every round of DU ammunition leaves a residue of DU dust on everything it hits, contaminating the surrounding area with toxic waste that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the age of our solar system, and turns every battlefield and firing range into a toxic waste site that poisons everyone in such areas. DU dust can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through scratches in the skin. DU is linked to DNA damage, cancer, birth defects, and multiple other health problems. The United Nations classifies Depleted Uranium ammunitions as illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction because of their long-term impact on the land over which they are used and the long-term health problems they cause when people are exposed to them.
How Do I Know If I Have Been Exposed to DU?
DU is used throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly in aircraft, tank, and Bradley Fighting Vehicle ammunition. You can be exposed to DU by coming into contact with any area that has been fired upon by DU munitions, any equipment that has been exposed to DU dust ,or anywhere DU dust has settled.
What Are The Symptoms of DU Exposure?
Depleted Uranium has two different effects on the body: chemical poisoning and radiation poisoning. Symptoms are similar to those described as Gulf War Syndrome. DU may also cause respiratory problems and is known to elevate the risk of lung cancer and leukemia. Symptoms include:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Neurological signs or symptoms
- Signs or symptoms involving upper or lower respiratory system
- Menstrual disorders
- Kidney problems
How Do I get Tested For DU Contamination?
Currently, only a few states in the US provide soldiers with DU testing; Connecticut and Louisiana have passed such legislation. However, you should keep a detailed set of records on when and where you may have been exposed, report symptoms and information to a physician, and get them on record. If symptoms persist, do not be discouraged by military doctors who seem to brush you off. If you are still on active duty, you should immediately register with DOD by calling 1-800-796-9699. Those who have left active military service should call the Veterans Administration at 1-800-PGW-VETS.