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Sweden & Depleted Uranium
The end of the innocence.
STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — Plutonium and uranium: metals from hell. Deadly. Carcinogenic. But the favoured toys of the US frat boys. They're heavy elements. Much heavier than lead. If you want to pierce body armour and hurt someone good (or get bonus points for kills) plutonium and uranium are your guys.
Exactly what this has to do with Sweden is anyone's guess - right? Because Sweden is a neutral country and Swedes are not involved in conflicts out in the world beyond the duckpond - right?
Right. Now researchers are concerned Swedes can be affected by depleted uranium from a war zone neutral countries don't approach.
Anders Romelsjö, Sven Knutsson, Nadir Al-Ansari, Roland Pusch, and Anders Brahme have penned a protest.
Government Must Investigate Uranium Weaponry
This year the Swedish involvement in Afghanistan will have been going on for ten years. And yet the issue of the effects of depleted uranium is relatively unknown in Sweden.
Uranium weapons were used by both the US and the UK during the first Gulf War, in the war in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq after 2003, and perhaps in Afghanistan. They're manufactured in the US, France, India, Russia, and Pakistan - and possibly in Sweden by Bofors, today a part of the vast BAE Systems and very tight lipped about the matter.
This is about projectiles that contain uranium because uranium is heavier than lead and can more easily penetrate tanks and bunkers. Uranium weapons, dominated by the isotope U-238, have waste material from the enrichment of U-235 found in natural uranium and used as nuclear fuel - depleted uranium ('DU'): low-enriched uranium containing small amounts of the highly lethal plutonium.
On contact the projectiles burn at a high temperature and form a fine dust of uranium oxides. When the dust is inhaled or otherwise comes in the body, the particles can get caught in the lungs and reach other organs. One one millionth of a gram of U-238 emits thousands of alpha particles per day that harm cells and DNA, just as other toxic and radioactive elements.
Uranium weapons can cause cancer and deformities. Researchers have found a significant increase in child leukemia in Basra and a 400% increase in cancer cases along with a high level of foetal deformities in Falluja where prolonged battles took place between the US and Iraq in 2004. The frequency of male births was lower as in Japan after Hiroshima - a sign of chromosomal damage. Researchers concluded, after taking samples of earth, water, and hair strands from the parents of deformed children, that traces of uranium are a probable cause - a conclusion also supported by cell culture research.
Up to 300 areas of Iraq are today contaminated by uranium residue. A rise in cancer was also reported after the war in Yugoslavia, amongst others by the Italian military. In November 2011 researchers from Sweden and Iraq reported on the contamination of Iraqi wildlife and general health issues at a workshop hosted by the Luleå University of Technology. They adopted a resolution declaring uranium weaponry to be very dangerous and demanding the countries manufacturing such dangerous weaponry openly admit it.
In December 2010, 148 countries of the United Nations general assembly passed a resolution encouraging all countries to declare their possession and use of depleted uranium weaponry. France, Great Britain, Israel, and the United States voted against. Sweden abstained.
The European parliament have on three successive occasions - and with a great majority on each occasion - voted to condemn the use of depleted uranium.
There have been attempts by the Swedish parliament to pass resolutions condemning depleted uranium but so far they have all been defeated. The foreign affairs committee wrote in 2008: 'Should convincing medical evidence prove that the depleted uranium used in ammunition has deleterious health and environmental side effects, the committee are prepared to sponsor a condemnation'.
The proof is available today. There are reports depleted uranium is being used in Afghanistan. Shouldn't our government find out if Swedish troops in Afghanistan have been exposed to uranium weapons - and if Bofors manufacture them?
Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Professor Emeritus, University of Stockholm
Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources, Luleå University of Technology
Professor, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources, Luleå University of Technology
Professor Emeritus, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources, Luleå University of Technology
Professor of Radiation Physics, Karolinska Institute
They're beating plowshares into swords.
- Don Henley
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