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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Secretary of State Clinton
U.S Department of State, 2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Fax: 202 647 8947 Tel. 202 647 5291
We write to draw your attention to the upcoming U.S vote in this year’s United Nations General Assembly on a fourth resolution regarding the Effects of the Use of Armaments and Ammunitions containing Depleted Uranium (DU).
As you are aware, DU munitions were used in the 1991 Gulf War, in the Balkans in the mid and late 1990’s and again in Iraq in the 2003 war. DU is a by-product of the enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel and weapons.
Soldiers and civilian populations have been exposed to residues from these chemically toxic and radioactive weapons in areas of combat. Upon hitting their targets, DU penetrators release a fine dust which can be inhaled and lodge in the lungs or travel to other parts of the body irradiating surrounding tissues with serious consequences that may not be revealed for years.
Cellular and animal studies by the U.S Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFFRI) have shown that DU can turn cells cancerous, that it can cause chromosome damage, leukemia, genomic instability, alpha particle induced cell transformation and can also pass on damage to the next generation.
The use of uranium weapons generates toxic remnants of war with an inherent risk of indiscriminate harm. They interfere with post- conflict reconstruction, spread fear and are difficult and expensive to remove. The properties of DU weapons ensure that it is impossible to completely decontaminate sites where they are fired.
The European Parliament has issued four resolutions calling for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons, the most recent and far-reaching calling for a global ban. The United Nations General Assembly passed its third resolution on DU in December 2010 urging release of information from users in order to facilitate assessment of areas where DU has been used. Only four countries voted against the 2010 Resolution, including the United States.
The global opposition to and stigmatization of DU weapons is growing and the US is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally. We strongly urge you to reconsider the United States' voting position at the UN First Committee this October and instead show leadership on these indiscriminate and unacceptable weapons that put both civilians and our own personnel at risk.