Top radiation biologists attack DU
Director of MRC Radiation and Genome Stability Unit
echoes LLRC's warnings on insoluble particles of Depleted Uranium Oxide
Dudley Goodhead is also a member of the Royal Society's panel on DU
An extract from New Scientist report on DU
by Deborah MacKenzie; 13 January 2001 page 5
The true extent of contamination with cancer-causing uranium in soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo may never be known, because the test government officials are planning to use to screen veterans will not pick up metal lodged deep in the body.
... European governments are planning to test their veterans' urine for uranium. "Nothing else is practical for so many" says Alain Vilet of the Belgian Ministry of Defence. But the most dangerous contamination might not show up in urine, warns Professor Dudley Goodhead, head of the British Medical Research Council's radiation and genome stability unit at Harwell. Burning uranium forms small particles of uranium oxides, between 0.1 and 10 microns wide, which can be inhaled. White blood cells scavenge the particles in the lungs and deposit them in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes. They are highly insoluble, and might not show up at all in urine, while still emitting intense local alpha and beta radiation, says Goodhead. That could damage blood stem cells, causing leukaemia.
"If the urine tests show normal levels [of uranium] that does not mean there is no danger", he warns. What's needed is chemical analysis of lymph nodes from the servicemen who died, but there have been no reports of such autopsies.
Further coverage of this in New Scientist 20th January 2001, with editorial comment supporting LLRC's recommendations - and even AEA Technology agrees!
Eric Wright joins the fray
Hoon accused of being glib over uranium shells
by Michael Smith and Richard Alleyne
Geoff Hoon the Defence Secretary, was accused of being glib yesterday by a leading scientist after dismissing fears over depleted Uranium as "anti-science" paranoia.
Mr Hoon said in a interview with the Daily Telegraph that the debate over DU had gone to "the lowest common denominator of fear". There was "no evidence" of any link between the use of the DU ammunition and the illnesses suffered by Gulf War veterans.
But Eric Wright, professor of experimental haematology at Dundee University, said Mr Hoon and the Ministry of Defence were being "glib". There was no evidence because there had been no clinical research into possible connections.
MoD scientists had been right to say there was no danger from the rounds before they were fired, he said. But the explosion when they hit their target created a dust containing particles of insoluble uranium dioxide - and that was a potential problem.
"What happens then is that when they [the particles] enter the body, they get gobbled up by scavenger cells and get lodged in the lymph nodes, and the situation you then have is that the uranium is emitting alpha particles."
Prof. Wright added that a single alpha particle was not just capable of doing "enormous damage" to one cell, but to adjacent cells as well.
from Daily Telegraph (UK) 23 January 2001 page 2 (not all editions)
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