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Leaving behind a DU mess

By Nicole Colson | April 25, 2003 | Page 2

PENTAGON OFFICIALS announced earlier this month that there are no plans to remove the leftover debris from depleted uranium (DU) weapons used in Iraq.

The Pentagon prizes munitions coated with DU, a uranium-enriched metal, because they pierce the hulls of tanks and other metal objects. But when the weapons explode, they release a toxic cloud of radioactive gas and dust.

During the first Gulf War in 1991, U.S.-led forces used 320 tons of DU munitions on Iraq. This was apparently responsible for a horrific spike in cancer rates in Iraq--and is thought to be a contributing factor to Gulf War Syndrome that affects tens of thousands of U.S. veterans. But Col. James Naughton of the Army Materiel Command said at a Pentagon briefing earlier this year that DU gives the U.S. an "edge," and "we don't want to give that up."

This month, the Pentagon claimed that no cleanup would be necessary--because their "new" studies show that DU is harmless. The brass must have missed a recent United Nations report that found radioactive debris from DU weapons still present in the air and groundwater in Bosnia-Herzegovina--more than seven years after they were used.

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