Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), is a representation of several medical and psychological complaints, which are affecting several men and women who had participated in the Gulf War which took place in 1991. These ailments are muscular pain, skin rash; sleep disturbances peripheral numbness, memory loss, fatigue, respiratory illness, headaches, fever, spasms, low blood pressure and dizziness. The Depleted uranium could be considered partly as a factor responsible for the Gulf War Syndrome. The depleted uranium produced long-term health problems in people who had contacts with its usage. It was in the Gulf war that the Depleted uranium weapons were used for the first time. There have been studies conducted by scientists regarding whether depleted uranium affects the physical health of individuals. As a result they are of the opinion that many veterans of the Gulf War are affected in terms of health problems by the depleted uranium. Even though several researches has been done since 1970’s it was only during the Gulf War that it was understood how deadly the depleted uranium could be.
Depleted uranium is considered a byproduct of the refinement process, which produces highly powerful radioactive uranium 235, the purpose of which is to use in nuclear reactors. Depleted Uranium has all the properties of natural uranium, including chemical and physical properties. But in spite of that depleted uranium is only about 40% as radioactive as natural uranium. But it should also be noted that depleted uranium remains radioactive for about 4.5 billion years. Depleted Uranium can produce harmful effects ion the human body and their effects on the human body are complex, because of its chemical form. The effects can also be produced as a result of the several factors of radiological mechanisms. Depleted uranium can produce dangers if it reaches the human body through food, water, by means of a wound or ingestion. (www.mint.gov.my/policy)
According to the study conducted in this area it has been found that individuals could inhale the small particles of burning Depleted Uranium and this is quite dangerous and poisonous. There could be a breakdown in the immune system as a result of having long-term contacts with the depleted uranium. There could also be other hazards to health in the form of infectious diseases. They could have serious effects and such cases have been steadily increasing. The infections are in the nature of Zoster infections and Herpes infections. There could also be found the symptoms of AIDS as a result of the breakdown in the immune system. There have been difficulties in the functioning of kidney and liver in many as a result of being affected by depleted uranium weapons. (Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 1999)
Studies conducted have shown that there could be an effect called proximal tubular necrosis cell damage, which could be formed as a result of higher concentration of uranium in the kidney tissues. This effect is formed in the collecting tubules of the kidney. U.S. researchers as a basis of their studies conducted in the 1980’s found out that due to the heavy density of Uranium Depletion, it was able to have enormous armour-piercing capacity. The Uranium Depletion had the capacity to penetrate through several layers of steel, which was hardened. It was also seen that shells, which were coated with means of depleted uranium, could ignite on impact. This could create radioactive particles, which could cause heavy fire bursts in an armored vehicle of an enemy.
Even though several studies conducted by scientists have proved that the weapons of depleted uranium could have harmful effects on the health, it has been ignored by the U.S. And NATO countries on the ground basing their argument that these weapons have low radioactivity. Since Depleted Uranium has low costs it is being used widely, in place of other materials, by countries like U.S. And U.K during the Gulf War in 1991. The depleted uranium is also being referred to as dirty depleted uranium. This is because in this uranium we could plutonium, which has relatively very high forms of radioactive materials. The United States had made use of 800 tons of depleted uranium weapons during the Gulf War. The depleted uranium was used in anti-aircraft and anti-personnel artillery missile and aircraft counterweights, in tank armor, and in navigational devices. (International Perspectives in Public Health, 1994)
The Gulf war was the first place where the depleted uranium was used. Because of their highly effectiveness of armor-piercing capacity depleted uranium turned out to be effective for anti-tank projectiles. Thus depleted uranium since the Gulf War became the most capable anti-tank weapon to be ever created. The depleted uranium had the capacity to produce high kinetic energy. Being formed from nuclear reactor waste and formed into penetrator rods these depleted uranium was capable pf penetrating through all types of weapons and ammunitions. Moreover, depleted uranium was also the material, which was the densest of all. It had the capacity to convert into ammunitions as a result of this. This form of uranium was an unwanted waste product of the atomic energy industry. It was also available in huge quantities and was free as a result of this. (The Herald (Scotland) January 22, 2003)
When a shell having the core of Uranium Deplete hits a tank, it not only penetrates through the armor, but it has tremendous capacity to even ignite, which shows how powerful it is. The uranium core has the capacity to turn to dust when it burns through the plating of the tank. (http://www.consultclarity.com) Military has a lot of benefits to be received from Depleted Uranium. This form of uranium is double the density of lead and could and has the capacity to ignite. The fine dust particles of depleted uranium have the capacity to travel to great distances as far as 26 miles. (Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 1999) Around 1400 tanks were destroyed as a result of the depleted ammunition weapons. The fact that the coalition forces in the Gulf War were able to destroy Iraqi forces in a short span of four days points to the clear understanding that the depleted uranium was being used.
It was from the Fairchild A-10 ‘tank-killer’ aircraft that most of the depleted uranium was being fired from. Even the U.S. vehicles were affected as a result of depleted uranium. An ammunition vehicle was caught on fire during the Gulf War in 1991. From the U.S. planes around 940,000 DU shells were being fired. From the U.S. tanks 14,000 Depleted Uranium shells were fired and around 9,000 pounds of depleted uranium were burned. In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq 300-800 tons of Depleted Uranium particles and dust were all spread throughout the water and in the ground. Thus several thousands of Iraqi’s were affected and several of their vehicles contaminated by Depleted Uranium. As a result of minor cases of fire, several vehicles of the U.S. military were being affected by depleted uranium. Such incidents also led to the soldiers who were inside the vehicles being affected as they were wounded. When the American soldiers entered these vehicles they were not prevented from entering or given proper warning of the presence of Depleted Uranium in the air and the presence of the uranium on the vehicles.
There is a problem of the disposal of depleted uranium worldwide. Several countries like France, U.K, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Thailand and many other countries have already developed or are in the process of developing ammunitions of Uranium Deplete. (http://www.webcom.com) Armies of U.S., U.K, France and Russia consider depleted uranium as inexpensive when compared to other types of ammunitions of tungsten or other kinds. They are of the opinion that this kind of ammunition is the best that they possess so far. This is because that they are very confident that a direct hit with the help of Depleted Uranium could hit at a range of 1500 metres, which is tremendous to destroy the vehicles and crew of the enemies. (The Herald (Scotland) January 22, 2003)
The Pentagon was not willing to accept that the depleted uranium, which had brought them success in the Gulf War, could produce dangerous health effects for its war veterans. They were of the opinion that the after-effects of the war was probably due to the experimental drug which was supplied to their troops to protect against a nerve gas which could have produced the illness in the troops, and could not accept that Depleted Uranium was responsible for the cause. (New York Times, Oct. 18, 1999) But the official version could not be accepted. This is because as result of the evidence available around 50,000 war veterans of the U.S. military and around 4,000 forces from the allied countries are suffering from war syndromes after the Gulf War. Both U.S. And British veterans of war are suffering from instances of cancer problems. (Independent, UK, January 8, 2001)
According to studies conducted by scientists it was found that even if a small particle of depleted uranium enters the lungs it is very complicated. This is because the surrounding tissue will be exposed to 270 times more radiation than what the workers have to undergo in a ration industry. The veterans of the Gulf War who have been affected by depleted uranium have problems of skin disease, damage to different internal organs, loss of hair and other effects. Research conducted has also proved that even in urine or bodies of veterans of the Gulf War the traces of Uranium Depletion could be found. (The Herald (Scotland) January 22, 2003) The U.S. troops in the Gulf War had exposure to a radioactive dust, which was fine. This was a residue, which resulted from depleted Uranium.
The officials of Pentagon had known about the hazards of using depleted Uranium. But they did not take necessary measures to give a warning or inform the troops about the hazards of the usage of depleted uranium. They did not take positive measures to protect their own troops from the dangers of the uranium. Their actions went on to affect the health of several of the troops of both young men and women, who were mostly in the age group of 20-30. Their lives are still affected as a result of the depleted uranium even after several years of the Gulf War. There were 696,000 American soldiers who had participated in the Gulf War of 1991. Out of these 696,000, 579,000 had left the Army. (www.chugoku-np.co.jp) There are thus several thousands of veterans of Gulf War who has been affected by chronic illness and are receiving medical pensions as a result of their ailments. Since the end of the Gulf War, tens of thousands of allied veterans have developed debilitating illnesses and have qualified to collect medical pensions. Thus even though the Uranium Depletion has been partly a cause of the Gulf War syndrome, there are also several other factors, which had caused the chronic illnesses in the war veterans. But Uranium depletion has been a major factor in producing the chronic illness in the troops of U.S. apart from affecting the Iraqi people and vehicles.
Myers, Steven Lee. Test drug may be cause of Gulf War Syndrome, Scientific Survey Finds, New York Times, Oct. 18, 1999
Bruce, Ian. Troops in Gulf to use depleted uranium shells, Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 1999 (Frisk, Robert. The Truth About Depleted Uranium, Independent, UK, January 8, 2001)
The Herald (Scotland) January 22, 2003 http://www.mint.gov.my/policy/nuc_disarm/issue_duweapons.htm
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