Inquiry into Gulf War illnesses - London, July - September 2004
2. Depleted uranium

John Nicol, Flight Lieutenant, 12 July 2004.
Many troops were exposed to depleted uranium dust whilst decommissioning sites and vehicles attacked with DU weapons.

Alex Izett, Corps of the Royal Engineers, 12 July 2004.
When the vehicles came back from the Gulf because they had not been washed down before they came back they might have still had traces of depleted uranium dust. 

Shaun Rusling, Vice Chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, 12 July 2004.
I and others asked about depleted uranium and asked the MoD to test us for exposure to this chemical and nuclear toxin.  It is a material fact that we have still not been tested by the MoD some 14 year later.  However, some veterans, including myself, were tested by three independent laboratories, the results were published in the United States Military Medicine June 2002 by Dr Asaf Urakib (?) which showed that British veterans had indeed tested to positive to U234, U235 and U238 and more worrying U236, which could only have come from a weapons system and in fact is now commonly known as “dirty DU”.  

Terence Edward Walker, Royal Army Ordinance Corps, 12 July 2004.
My claim for depleted uranium poisoning was rejected because the Veterans Agency said that it was not founded, even though the MoD and Veterans Agency have not tested anybody from Gulf War I.  […] Every time we went to repair those vehicles, they were in locations surrounded by enemy tanks that had been hit by depleted uranium.  We were constantly driving through these locations, sleeping in those locations, having our food in those locations and we were searching vehicles as well that had been hit by depleted uranium.  

Stephen Roberts, 16/5 Queen’s Royal Lancers, 12 July 2004.
I am convinced that I would have been exposed to quite a lot of depleted uranium whilst driving through enemy positions immediately after our own artillery and aircraft fire had gone into that area which was brought down by ourselves.  

Michael Capps, Royal Corps of Transport, 19 July 2004.
I got permission from my section commander to use a motorcycle to go and have a look at the damage we had done to the Iraqi tanks and artillery pieces, of which I took quite a few photos.  I made several trips to different positions.  Once back at the port waiting to come home, the squadron arranged trips for anyone interested to a tank graveyard.  Like little kids we were, climbing all over these vehicles, in and out, none the wiser about any of the danger of the Depleted uranium...  At no stage were we told to put protective clothing on while we were around vehicles.  

Mark McGreevy, Royal Signals, 19 July 2004.
There were occasions when we conducted battlefield tours around Basra and Kuwait and we were exposed to damaged tanks from depleted uranium shells and the burning of oil fields…  I think it is a combination of everything I have been exposed to.  It could be the oil fires when I was out there – and I have photographs – where it was black soot and we had inadequate clothing and I am not a medical expert but just the environment we were in and the circumstances with the injections, I do not know what has made me ill. 

THE CHAIRMAN:  You refer to the depleted uranium; why do you put that down as one of the possible causes?  

A.  There has been a lot of research over the years and, with the help of the Internet, it is well publicised as to what causes Gulf War illnesses.  I have pictures of me next to burnt-out tanks when we went into Kuwait and Basra and I knew I was around all these tanks which had been blown up by shells. 

Raymond Bristow, military warrant officer theatre technician and combat medical technician, both Class 1, 19 July 2004.
I was showing readings [of depleted uranium] in 1998 of being exposed to over 100 times of what is considered to be the safe limits.  I would believe that the uranium, when it burns at 3000 degrees Centigrade, forms insoluble ceramic particles that can pass through the alveoli of the lung, and because it is ceramic Professor Durakovic explained that it is recognised as calcium by the body and is usually laid down in the bones...  

I was exposed to Iraqi casualties that had been blown up with depleted uranium munitions.  

Before the Gulf War, in 1990, produced with the American Department of Defense, I have a document that states that under combat conditions the ground troops that re-enter a battlefield following the exchange of armour-piercing munitions, either on foot or in motorised transports, are most likely to be at risk.  It also says, “following combat, however, the condition of the battlefield and long-term health risks to natives and combat veterans may become issues in the acceptability of the continued use of depleted uranium kinetic penetrators for military applications”... Professor Gunter of the European Green Cross. ... was ... prosecuted and fined by the German Government for bringing dangerous radioactive material into the country.  This dangerous radioactive material was one 38mm cannon shell.  It was confiscated for safe disposal.

British and American service personnel had handled many of these during the Gulf War.  Professor Gunter had actually taken it from the hands of a little four-year old girl who was playing with it in the gutter in southern Iraq… Depleted uranium was categorised by a United Nations sub-committee as falling under the category of a weapon of mass and/or discriminate destruction, causing unnecessary harm to combatants of both sides, the civilian population and the environment.  

Therefore, someone/some people are war criminals; but it is a sad fact that only losers of wars or low-ranking personnel are charged with war crimes… When a casualty comes in, it is not like a road-traffic accident; it is a battlefield casualty; he has been in an explosion.  It is not bullets and shrapnel but dust and debris as well.  The sand in the desert is not like Blackpool beach; you get it in your fingers and you crumble it, and it becomes as fine as talcum powder.  

The first thing you do when you get a casualty on to the operating table – and again there is a language problem; they may be incoherent as well – is you cut off their clothes top to bottom, examine the casualty front and back, head to toes, to make sure – there may be a wound on the front, but there could be a bigger one on the back.  That re-suspends the dust and debris into the atmosphere, which you inhale.  Also, of course, we did experience sandstorms coming in from the battlefield... That was at the time of Al-Khamassiya, so it could contain Sarin nerve gas and depleted uranium. 

Professor Albrecht Schott, Head of World Depleted Uranium Centre, 27 July 2004.
Uranium has the ability to go everywhere in the body.  It passes the blood-brain barrier.  The brain is protected from substances not useful for the nerve cells, but uranium passes the blood-brain barrier, uranium passes the blood centre barrier and it passes the blood-sperm barrier.  In passing the blood-brain barrier it comes in contact and it awaits the nerve cells and, of course, damages the nerve cells... I made a resolution on the banning of DU.  

For the first time I present these thousands of signatures I collected and it is part of my evidence... I agree that depleted DU is a matter on its own and I think something like your inquiry has some focus on the vaccinations.  This is absolutely okay and necessary and the DU is a matter on its own but all these harms - contaminations, vaccinations, tent disinfection and so on and so on - you find in the Gulf take place in one organism and they all are connected with each other and if you disturb at one point you change many or all others... 

I would be very happy if the Gulf War veteran Kenny Duncan were to be invited and not only Kenny Duncan but his wife Mandy and their three children.  Kenny Duncan because he is a Gulf War veteran, Kenny Duncan because he is the first of 66,000 ill veterans from the Gulf War of 1991 ‑ about 6,000 British and 60,000 US ‑ to win his Pension Appeals Tribunal... on the basis of my chromosome test… You know that we found uranium 236 in the shells [coated in depleted uranium] and this is produced only in the reactor, it does not naturally occur, and then it means it also had plutonium in it...

I must state that about 50 per cent of the researchers and of the scientists follow the government line, not just in UK but all over the world and it is the same in Germany.  What I am saying here is not for the UK, it is the same for all the states and the other countries.  So it is a difficult matter.  50 per cent is a lot.  On impact the DU shell burns because DU is pyrophoric, it burns by itself.  It reaches a temperature of about 3,000 degrees centigrade.  The higher the burning temperature is the smaller are the particles of the heavy metal oxide ‑ in general, not only uranium ‑ and the less soluble they are.  This declares the so called ceramic DU.  It is like a very small glass bowl and it has not only the DU, it has a new high temperature chemistry taking place in the tank and there is not only DU, there are persons, and everything burns, equipment, everything burns, and these cancer‑ producing substances come to this dust, not only the DU, and this you inhale... 

This dust is collected in the lymph nodes of the lung.  Nothing is absolutely insoluble and day‑by‑day it gives a little bit of DU in your body contaminating your body until today, so it still excretes uranium...  The other part is soluble oxide and the size of this dust is down to ten angstrom.  Particles of the size of ten angstrom behave like gas.  They go to the air, to the atmosphere, and go around the globe.  The bigger particles go down but not, as a man at the MoD told me, within some ten metres... They go with the wind and they distribute. 

Look to the UNep [UNDP] report on Yugoslavia.  They measured the air in parts of Yugoslavia and Bosnia where no battle took place, there is DU in the air...  The parts that go to the earth are carried with the wind if you are in the desert so it distributes in this direction, that direction, that direction.  So you never know where the dust is.  ... The bigger particles go to the ground and as they are water soluble it goes to the ground water and UNep [UNDP] demands the control in Yugoslavia (and of course all other parts) of the ground water.  It comes up through the wells, is taken in by the plants, eaten by the animals and eaten by us... 

There is already evidence that not only the chemical and the radiological toxicities are toxicities of their own but that they enhance each other as well. ... Please allow me one more demand.  I demand to include Iraqi civilians in this inquiry.

THE CHAIRMAN:  I think that is quite important.  

A.  Our soldiers were there for some weeks; they stay there for 14 years every day.  I did not attach the photos of the babies that are not babies but you know --- 

Lawrence Halloran, Staff Director and Council of the Subcommittee on National Security and the Public Committee on Federal Reform, 3 August 2004.
THE CHAIRMAN: I think, heard from anybody in America on depleted uranium as a possible cause of the syndrome.  Has any work been done I am sure it has in America?           

A.  Some has.  We have not looked at it carefully in the course of our Gulf War work.  We did look at DOD and VA studies underway.  The depleted uranium studies were mostly with regard to actual particles that were embedded in the veterans and the potential radiation aspect, but in our view the real peril of DU in a health context is the dust that is created on impact and that the material burns, and heavy metal toxicity is far more potentially dangerous and more likely to be a factor in disease‑causing than embedded particles, but beyond that we really are not sure.

THE CHAIRMAN:  Is there any suggestion that any cause of brain damage could be depleted uranium rather than?

A.  The only suggestion we had in testimony was that heavy metals lodged in the brain would cause brain damage, like lead does, and that DU is a heavy metal, a very heavy metal, and if there was to be a brain damage or brain function implication it would be because of that.

THE CHAIRMAN:  But my memory is that Professor Haley this morning did not refer specifically to depleted uranium as being one of the causes? 

A.  It has come up only in the circumstances I have mentioned and, again, in depth studies down to the kind of level, molecular level that Dr Haley spoke about, has not been available to us. 

THE CHAIRMAN:  It has not figured largely, it sounds?   

A.  No. 

Professor David Coggon, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, 23 September 2004.
The insoluble dusts [of depleted uranium] that are inhaled… are excreted alongside the uranium that we all excrete anyway because all of us are exposed to uranium in our everyday lives principally through what we eat and drink...  [Depleted uranium] is a very dense metal, it is almost twice as dense as lead so it has been used for engineering purposes, for example as counter weights for rudders and things like that, it has been used in aircraft engineering, but it has also been used militarily… 

A substantial part of the exposure is likely to be highly insoluble uranium oxides and because these are highly insoluble they stick around in the body for a long time and only slowly get dissolved away.  Even now somebody who inhaled insoluble uranium oxides 15 years ago would be still excreting some of that depleted uranium and they will go on excreting it into the future… 

THE CHAIRMAN:  In the four years which have passed or three years which have passed since you started, have any veterans had their urine tested? 

A.  So we did that first and then the next step

THE CHAIRMAN:  They have?  

A.  Yes.

THE CHAIRMAN:  How many?  

A.  32… There are some scientists, including some members of our Board, who do not accept the consensus opinion on the relationship of health risk to given exposures to uranium.  They suggest that the risks may be higher even from very, very low exposures, and we have to acknowledge that as an uncertainty… Having successfully completed that pilot testing today we are announcing in the press the start of the main testing programme… 

[The veterans eligible to the test]  have to have been either in the Persian Gulf area between 1 August 1990 and 31 July 1991 or in the former Republic of Yugoslavia on or after 5 August 1994, either one of those, and they have to have done that either as members of the UK armed forces or civilian employees of the UK Ministry of Defence or civilians working under the control of the UK Ministry of Defence or civilians employed by NGOs such as some of the aid organisations. 

Professor Albrecht Schott, Head of World Depleted Uranium Centre, 23 September 2004.
We have to look to the uranium in the living cell in the cellular metabolism if we want to find out what is the toxicity, what is the cause of the DU part of the Gulf War Illness, and so these are the things we handle and if we test uranium in the urine we make a very, very basic step.