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Military use of depleted uranium

March 27, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 13

In his letter "Nuclear Fuel Retrieval," James Ingemanson states, "Our current policy utilizes a small portion of mined uranium and buries the remainder for eternity" (C&EN, Dec. 5, 2005, page 7). Reality is more complicated than that. Even though the United Nations Subcommission on the Promotion & Protection of Human Rights declared depleted uranium (DU) to be a weapon of mass destruction and against international law, our military continues to use DU (natural uranium after U-235 is removed) in its weapons, with predictable ghastly consequences, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the half-life of U-238 and the microscopic aerosols formed upon explosive impact of the DU-containing shells, it comes as no surprise that both civilian and military populations in these areas are being subjected to a frightening health hazard.

Since space does not permit appropriate coverage of this topic, I encourage readers to search "depleted uranium" on the Internet and to express their concern to your senators and representatives.

Frank De Haan
Sun Valley, Calif.


March 6, page 33:

The number of asbestos personal injury claims Grace faced when it filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2001 was 129,000, not 325,000.

March 13, page 56:

The insect that produces cochineal was identified as a parasitic beetle. It is not a beetle but a mealybug, Dactylopius coccus, and it is not a parasite. Beetles and mealybugs are in different insect orders.


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