The Devastating Impact of Depleted Uranium Weapons on Civilian and Military Personnel: After the War, Does Peace Have to Be Hell, Too?

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Depleted uranium is a high density material which has become a part of several countries’ military arsenals in recent years. Its high density allows weapons made from it to pierce conventional armor, while allowing shielding made from it to withstand direct hits from conventional weaponry. Unfortunately, in addition to having a high density, depleted uranium is radioactive and highly toxic. When a depleted uranium weapon impacts a hard target such as a tank, the weapon breaks into very small pieces (called aerosols) which can be breathed in by people and animals. Once breathed in, these particles settle in the lungs and irradiate the individual from the inside out while also introducing its toxins into the bloodstream. The particles are small enough that they are continually stirred up by the wind, thus posing an ongoing respiratory hazard to living things long after any active battle is over. As a result of the hazards, the use of depleted uranium weapons is illegal under international law. Laboratory tests on animals have shown devastating health effects based on exposure to uranium aerosols. Civilian populations in Iraq and Bosnia have seen increases in cancer, miscarriage, and birth defect rates since depleted uranium was used in military conflicts in those regions. Military personnel from Great Britain, Italy, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United States who were exposed to depleted uranium aerosols have demonstrated health problems as well, including increased rates of leukemia, birth defects, and miscarriages. This paper will review the issues above and present a detailed summary of the health effects currently being suffered by both military and civilian personnel who have been exposed to depleted uranium aerosols.

Keywords: Depleted Uranium, Respiratory Hazard, Fine Metal Powders, Pyrophoric Powder, Chemical Toxicity, Radioactivity, Aerosols, Birth Defects, Gulf War Syndrome
Stream: Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Devastating Impact of Depleted Uranium Weapons on Civilian and Military Personnel, The

Dr. Russell Kincaid

Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Department of Math and Physics, Wilmington College
Wilmington, Ohio, USA

Dr. Russell W. Kincaid graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio in 1989 with majors in physics and mathematics. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1995 with a specialization in plasma physics. From 1996-2002, he worked for UTRON, Inc. as a research scientist. The work involved finding industrial applications for pulsed plasma jets. His work included performing experimental research and development on new thermal spraying processes, high efficiency fine metal powder production devices, developing metal matrix composite production techniques, working with advanced materials, and developing methods for the environmentally benign removal of lead based paints. From 2002-2003, he worked for Unisphere, Inc., where he performed both scientific and business analysis of a variety of technologies on behalf of the United States military. He has worked in academia since 2003, and is currently nearing the completion of his third year at Wilmington College. His training in nuclear engineering and his experience with fine metal powders at UTRON have led him to the issue of fine depleted uranium powders, which he has been studying for the last five years.

Ref: I08P0774