Artillery: April 11, 2004

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Some soldiers returning from Iraq with undiagnosed health problems are blaming it on depleted uranium metal, which is used in the 30mm cannon carried by the A-10 aircraft, 25mm shells used by the M-2 infantry vehicle and 120mm shells used by the M-1 tank. Depleted uranium is a very dense metal that has had the radioactive material removed (to  make nuclear fuel or atomic bombs), leaving it about as radioactive as some common building materials (like granite.) In other words, not very radioactive at all. Accusations of depleted uranium causing health problems have been made before, and have never withstood scientific scrutiny. But throw the words "uranium" and "radioactive" in front of the media and you send reporters and politicians into a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, this detracts from the very real health problems American soldiers are encountering in Iraq. As far back as the 1970s, Department of Defense medical experts warned of the large number of diseases native to the Persian Gulf. Many of these exotic afflictions are tolerated by the locals, but can be debilitating, or fatal, to outsiders. There are also a number of medical conditions in the area which are either unidentified, or not well understood, even by the natives. No one from the West took a close look at the diseases of the Persian Gulf area until large numbers of outsiders moved into the area during and after World War II. Currently, identifying and treating all the diseases of the region is still a work in process. Grandstanding over non-existent "depleted uranium" illness detracts from work on the real diseases injuring American troops. 

 


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