Depleted uranium (DU) weapons are chemically toxic and radioactive conventional weapons designed to pierce armor. They were used by the US in the 1991 Gulf War, in the Balkans in the mid and late 1990’s and again in Iraq in the 2003 occupation. Upon impact with hard targets, DU munitions burn generating a fine dust that may be inhaled by civilians and soldiers alike. Intact munitions or fragments slowly break down, contaminating soils and groundwater.
Animal and cellular studies have shown that DU damages DNA and has caused cancer in laboratory rodents. The US and other DU users have shown little interest in studying civilian populations but laboratory studies have demonstrated that DU is toxic to the body. Since 1991, reports have come from Iraq of increasing numbers of cases of childhood leukemia and birth defects which may be the result of DU exposure. DU contaminates the environment and is very expensive and difficult to clean up.
These weapons are inherently indiscriminate and need to be banned. Other countries are moving to prohibit the use of DU weapons but the US and other DU users are standing in the way of progress.
The United Nations will vote on a fourth resolution considering their acceptability in October. Even without comprehensive civilian health studies, the failure of states to clean-up contamination, their use against civilian infrastructure in built up areas and the lack of transparency from users over where the weapons have been used clearly demands action to ban these weapons on a precautionary basis.
The United States, Israel, the UK and France are the only four states opposing these resolutions. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace, Pax Christi US, Pax Christi International and Friends of the Earth US are calling for people around the globe to write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask her to reconsider the United States‘ voting position at the UN First Committee this October.
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To learn more about ICBUW and depleted uranium weapons, take five minutes and watch our animated short: When the Dust Settles
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