November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.
Helen Caldicott on Depleted Uranium
Helen Caldicott, October 6, 2002 (Editorial published in the Baltimore Sun)
NEW YORK -- As the Bush administration prepares to make war on the Iraqi
people -- for it is the civilian population of that country and not Saddam
Hussein who will bear the brunt of the hostilities -- it is important that
we recall the medical consequences of the last Persian Gulf war. It was, in
effect, a nuclear war.
By the end of that 1991 conflict, the United States left between 300 and
800 tons of depleted uranium-238 in anti-tank shells and other munitions on
the battlefields of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The term "depleted" refers to the removal of the fissionable element
uranium-235 through a process that ironically is called "enrichment." What
remains, uranium-238, is 1.7 times more dense than lead. When incorporated
into an anti-tank shell and fired, it achieves enormous momentum, cutting
through tank armor like a hot knife through butter.
What other properties does uranium-238 possess?
First, it is pyrophoric.
When it hits a tank , it bursts into flames, producing aerosolized
particles less than 5 microns in diameter, making them easy to inhale into
the terminal air passages of the lung.
Second, it is a potent radioactive carcinogen, emitting a relatively heavy
alpha particle composed of two protons and two neutrons. Once inside
the body -- either in the lung if it has been inhaled, in a wound if it
penetrates flesh, or ingested since it concentrates in the food chain and
contaminates water -- it can produce cancer in the lungs, bones, blood or
Third, it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, meaning the areas in
which this ammunition impacted in Iraq and Kuwait will remain effectively
radioactive for the rest of time. Children are 10 to 20 times more
sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults.
My fellow pediatricians
in the Iraqi city of Basra, for example,report an increase of six to 12
times in the incidence of childhood leukemia and cancer. Yet because of the
sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Nations, they
have no access to antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs or effective radiation machines to treat their
The incidence of congenital malformations has doubled in the
exposed populations in Iraq where these weapons were used. Among them are
babies being born with only one eye and with an encephaly -- the absence of
However, the medical consequences of the use of uranium-238 almost
certainly did not affect only Iraqis. Some American veterans exposed to it
are reported, by at least one medical researcher, to be excreting uranium
in their urine a decade later. Other reports indicate it is being excreted
in their semen.That nearly one-third of the American tanks used in Desert
Storm were armed with munitions made with uranium-238 is another story, for
their crews were exposed to whole body gamma radiation.
What might be the long-term consequences of such exposure has not, apparently, been studied.
Would these effects have surprised U.S. authorities? No, for incredible as it may
seem, the American military's own studies prior to Desert Storm warned that
aerosol uranium exposure under battlefield conditions could lead to cancers
of the lung and bone, kidney damage, non-malignant lung
disease, neurocognitive disorders, chromosomal damage and birth defects.
Do President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld understand the medical consequences of the 1991 war and the
likely health effects of the next one they are planning? If they don't,
their ignorance is breathtaking.
Even more incredible, though, and possibly more likely, is that they do understand but don't care.
Helen Caldicott, MD, founder and president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute,
has devoted 25 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the
medical hazards of the nuclear age. Her most recent book is The New Nuclear Danger:
George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex,
(The New Press, 2002).
Page created January 22, 2003 by Charlie Jenks.