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Toxic Effects of Depleted Uranium Weapons The Things We Leave Behind Brecht Forum June 29, 2011 Thomas M. Fasy MD Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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Presentation on theme: "Toxic Effects of Depleted Uranium Weapons The Things We Leave Behind Brecht Forum June 29, 2011 Thomas M. Fasy MD Mount Sinai School of Medicine"— Presentation transcript:

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2 Toxic Effects of Depleted Uranium Weapons The Things We Leave Behind Brecht Forum June 29, 2011 Thomas M. Fasy MD Mount Sinai School of Medicine

3 Toxic Effects of Inhalational Exposure to Uranium Oxide Dust Particles derived from Depleted Uranium Munitions

4 Armor Piercing Weapons, History Prior to WW II, Germany developed armor-piercing shells with tungsten carbide cores; these shells were a key to Erwin Rommel's early success in North Africa ( ).

5 Armor Piercing Weapons, History In the summer of 1943, anticipating a cut-off of tungsten imports from Portugal, Albert Speer, the German Armaments Minister authorized the production of armor-piercing shells made of uranium.

6 Armor Piercing Weapons, History These uranium shells proved not only to be effective armor-piercing munitions but they also had “an added incendiary effect" i.e. they often caused fires or explosions in the target. Because of this pyrophoric effect, Germans called uranium shells grenades: Panzer Grenat Patrone.

7 Armor Piercing Weapons, History In the late 1940s, the US DOD continued the development of kinetic energy penetrators made of uranium at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. The first widespread battlefield use of depleted uranium penetrators was in Feb 1991 in the first Gulf War.

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9 Following impact with hard targets, uranium metal undergoes combustion releasing large quantities of very small uranium oxide dust particles into the environment.

10 D.U. dust is dangerous because It is an extremely concentrated form of Uranium. Many of the dust particles are very small ( microns) and readily inhaled. Uranium has multiple toxicities

11 The toxicity of uranium was discovered in 1825 Uranium is a KIDNEY TOXIN Uranium is a NEUROTOXIN Uranium is an IMMUNOTOXIN Uranium is a MUTAGEN Uranium is a CARCINOGEN Uranium is a TERATOGEN

12 URANIUM TOXICITY Radiation-mediated toxicity Chemically-mediated toxicity

13 Uranyl ions bind to DNA While bound to DNA, uranyl ions are chemically reactive and can give rise to free radicals which may damage DNA.

14 Uranium is a KIDNEY TOXIN Uranium is a NEUROTOXIN Uranium is an IMMUNOTOXIN Uranium is a MUTAGEN Uranium is a CARCINOGEN Uranium is a TERATOGEN

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17 Percentage rise in the incidence of malignancies in general and leukaemias among children in Basrah with reference to the year 1990

18 Pediatric Oncology Clinic,Basrah

19 5 year old Atarid with mother, Adra mid- March 2003

20 14 year old Joann with A.L.L. early October 2003

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22 DU, Cancer, Leukemia and Birth Defects The 1991 use of DU weapons in southern Iraq was followed by a marked increase in birth defects, childhood leukemia and other cancers. the 2004 assaults on Falluja in central Iraq were followed by marked increases in birth defects, childhood leukemia and other cancers.

23 Fallujah - a timeline March 31, 2004 Ambush of 4 Blackwater contractors. April 4, st assault on Fallujah begins. Nov. 4, nd assault on Fallujah begins. These attacks on Fallujah involved more than 600 airstrikes. 2007: 1st reports of increases in pediatric leukemia. 2009: increases in birth defects reported in UK media. Pentagon position: No uranium munitions were used in Fallujah after July No records are available on the use of uranium munitions in Fallujah prior to July 2004.

24 Transgenerational Carcinogenesis  an implausible concept??  suggested by some epidemiological data  mouse experiments have documented only a few transgenerational carcinogens, the most recent being depleted uranium.  The offspring of male mice exposed to depleted uranium have an increased frequency of gene mutations in their bone marrow. (AFRRI) Health Physics 99(3): , 2010 Sept

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26 5 year old Atarid with mother, Adra mid- March 2003

27 Organs of Uranium Oxide Uptake following Inhalational Exposure Lungs Kidneys Bones and Teeth Pulmonary Lymph Nodes

28 OVERVIEW of URANIUM TOXICOLOGY based on Literature Reviews and on the clinical symptoms of a small cohort of U.S. soldiers with documented inhalational exposures to DU dust in As Samawah (June-August 2003)

29 Symptoms of Uranium Exposure Respiratory Kidney Neurologic Skin Allergic / Autoimmune Miscellaneous

30 Respiratory Symptoms of Uranium Toxicity chronic cough hyperactive airways asthma-like symptoms

31 RENAL SYMPTOMS of ACUTE URANIUM TOXICITY Occult or Gross Hematuria (Proteinuria) Polyuria Kidney Stones Flank pain Urethritis

32 Common Neurologic Symptoms visual disturbances migraine headaches, photophobia cognitive dysfunction short-term memory loss difficulty concentrating erectile dysfunction sensory neuropathy, numbness vertigo

33 ALLERGIC / AUTOIMMUNE SYMPTOMS Cutaneous rash (atopic dermatitis, chronic urticaria) Angioedema (localized swelling, often asymmetric) Arthralgia Myalgia

34 COMMON SYMPTOMS ( cont’d ) Chronic fatigue Sleep disorders Mood disorders (depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks) Fibromyalgia Syndrome (chronic widespread pain, allodynia, hyperalgesia)

35 Individuals with a definite or probable inhalational exposure to uranium oxides and who have symptoms consistent with uranium toxicity may be plausibly considered to suffer from uranium toxicity.

36 DU has a unique isotope signature consequently, DU can be traced. The presence of DU in human urine or in tissues such as lung, lymph node, kidney, bone or teeth can be documented by Mass Spectroscopy. See R.R.Parrish et al.: Health Physics 90: , 2006 Feb.

37 Since 1996, the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has consistently ruled that Depleted Uranium weapons are incompatible with existing international humanitarian and human rights laws.

38 BANNED WEAPONS WMD weapons of mass destruction WIE weapons with indiscriminate effect WSI weapons which cause superfluous injury WUS weapons which cause unnecessary suffering

39 Uranium Oxide Dust derived from DU weapons: is inherently toxic is intrinsically indiscriminate damages the environment persists on the battlefield is not confined to the battlefield causes superfluous injury

40 U.N. Sub-Commision on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Weapons Incompatible with existing International Law DU weapons Cluster bombs Fuel-air bombs Chemical weapons Bacteriological weapons Biological weapons

41 Optimal Penetration Requires Minimal area of impact (sharp tip) Maximal velocity (~1500 meters/sec) Maximal mass (density) High length to width ratio Optimal hardness

42 Uranium is carcinogenic lung tumors (dogs) lymphoma (monkeys) sarcomas (rats) transformation of osteoblasts(in vitro) excess lymphomas (uranium workers)

43 Uranium is mutagenic and genotoxic induces DNA damage in vitro increases revertants in the Ames test increases mutations in mammalian cells

44 Uranium is teratogenic Female mice that are exposed to uranium and subsequently become pregnant, show multiple reproductive toxicities including an increased frequency of congenital malformations.

45 URANIUM HISTORY 1789 Klaproth discovers Uranium 1824 Gmelin describes Uranium toxicity 1888 Renal Toxicity of Uranium established 1896 Becquerel discovers radioactivity 1943 largescale Uranium Toxicology Research Program begins under Manhattan Project U Fission bomb dropped on Hiroshima 1950s DU weapons research begins st largescale use of DU weapons in battle

46 Armor Piercing Weapons, History "In the summer of 1943, wolframite (tungsten) imports from Portugal were cut off, which created a critical situation for the production of solid core (anti-tank) ammunition. I thereupon ordered the use of uranium cores for this type of ammunition. My release of our uranium stocks of about 1200 metric tonnes showed that we no longer had any thought of producing atom bombs." Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments


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