Europe may face cancer, birth defects if Kiev uses depleted uranium
As the US and UK disregard warnings again depleted uranium, experts expect "collateral damage" to take place.
The use of depleted uranium ammunition could cause irreversible harm to the health of the military and civilian population of Ukraine, and beyond Ukraine's borders as well, the Russian Defense Ministry warned on Tuesday. The scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, Chris Busby, told Sputnik that Moscow has the right to be concerned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described depleted uranium (DU) munitions as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) of indiscriminate effect, Dr. Chris Busby, a physical chemist who has worked for the UK government's uranium committee, emphasized while talking to Sputnik.
Busby said that "the British and the Americans continue to cling to their crazy theory that these radioactive substances which bind to DNA are effectively harmless and have no genetic or indiscriminate effects on populations."
"In this case, I just have to say that the British are wrong, that this substance contaminates Europe and will cause all of the effects that it caused in Iraq (…) It will cause all those effects in Germany, and Luxemburg, and France, and Sweden, and the Baltic States and a long list of countries which stand between Ukraine and the United Kingdom, where we measured it," he added.
UK Minister of State for Defense Annabel Goldie told British lawmakers on March 21 that London would provide a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Kiev, as well as ammunition including armor-piercing rounds that contain depleted uranium.
'Iraq war's painful legacy'
Busby personally conducted a series of studies, including the one in Fallujah, which came under massive attack from DU munitions back in 2004 by the US military.
He recalled that there was concern about the reports that were coming from Fallujah concerning the high levels of cancer and birth defects. He ran a survey at the time, in which people went around and knocked on doors and asked who lived in the property, how many people were there, how many cancer patients there were, what sort of cancers they had, how many children had died in the past five years and all these sorts of questions.
After that, his team analyzed the cancer data that they got over the preceding five years by comparing it with cancer rates in Egypt and Jordan as a sort of background. Results concluded that there were higher than average levels of cancer.
When all those results were put together, they came to the conclusion that there had been some very large genetic damage event that occurred about the time of the Fallujah attacks.
Fallujah Case: DU and Congenital Malformations
Busby and his team suspected that the primary cause of those congenital malformations in Fallujah was DU.
He explains that Iraqi residents living in Fallujah and doctors raised the alarm over the war’s devastating environmental effects in Iraq and the hike in oncological diseases and birth defects in Fallujah.
The detected defects included babies born with only one eye; babies born with missing limbs or too many limbs; a higher than normal incidence of babies with brain damage or tumors; cardiac defects; and missing genitalia.
The issue was to prove that these health problems had to do with DU because the US and UK authorities were - and are still - denying that DU munitions were at the root of all evils, according to Busby.
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"It certainly wasn't an unfortunate coincidence, but what we can say for certainty from the epidemiology is that the probability of this occurring by chance was vanishingly small," the scientist explained. "You can do statistics to show that it's more or less impossible for this to happen unless there had been some cause. But the question is what the cause is. The Americans refused to admit that they were using uranium."
Busby emphasized that the only anomaly they found associated with an element that can cause congenital malformations was uranium. The scientists knew the rate at which hair grows, so they cut the hair into little slices and measured the uranium in each of the slices going back to the first bit.
"So we can get a graph of the uranium in the hair going right the way back to about 2005. And what we found is that the uranium went up the further back in time we went. So clearly there was an increase in uranium round about the time just after Fallujah battle, which then fell as time went on, obviously because it got out of the system. So we had proof - more or less - that uranium was the cause of all of these congenital malformations, genetic damage, sex ratio and extraordinarily high level of cancer," the physical chemist underscored.
DU harmful to health
DU is considered to be less radioactive than natural uranium, but even in its weakened form, this substance is very radioactive, the scientist stressed.
The second risk associated with the use of depleted uranium is that uranium acts as a sort of amplifier for normal radiation because it has a very high atomic number. The reason DU penetrates the body so easily and spreads in the environment is that when munitions explode, the uranium burns at a very high temperature, producing particles so small that they're effectively a gas, Busby says.
"They don't behave as a metal particle, they behave like a gas and they are totally volatile and float all over the place. They contaminate over distance. In 2003, we looked at the first Gulf War effects and we looked at filters in the United Kingdom, measuring uranium, and we showed that they came from Iraq all the way to England," said the scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk.
That said, the British government's decision to deploy DU munitions to Ukraine sends a sinister message to the rest of Europe and its populations that will reap the whirlwind of radioactive contamination after Ukraine starts using these weapons, the scientist said.
'Democracy should be run on basis of truth not lies'
Busby highlighted that neither the US nor the British governments had listened to the results of the scientific research in Fallujah.
"The Ministry of Defense sent a representative to argue that uranium was harmless and couldn't have caused his cancer. I brought in my evidence and they brought in their evidence. And the jury found totally for what I said, that the colon cancer in this man, Stewart Dyson, was caused by the uranium."
He noted that instead of considering DU munitions as WMD, the US and UK military are determined to send it to Ukraine as an effective blast to the adversary's armored vehicles, causing collateral damage. Likewise, the US and UK governments remain in denial about the disastrous effects of DU weapons and potentially negative consequences for nations far beyond the Ukraine conflict zone.
"Democracy is run on the basis of truth, on the basis of perfect knowledge. If people in a democracy have perfect knowledge that something that our government is doing is killing them, then they ought to get another government. Quickly," Busby concluded.