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Thread: Use of Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorous in Fallujah?

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Use of Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorous in Fallujah?

    Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading/listening to media reports about what is alleged to be a sudden sharp increase in the level of birth defects being detected in the town of Fallujah. Local doctors and townspeople are apparently claiming that the cause can be traced to the use of D.U. rounds and white phosphorous by U.S. troops during the battle against Sunni??? insurgents. The medical staff quoted are quick to state that they have no direct proof that this is this is the case but still insist it is the most likely cause.

    Firstly, although I am not a military professional , if I put myself in the mind of the company/battalion commanders involved I can think of probably a dozen different weapon types I would prefer to use first instead of D.U. or W.P. especially in the "house to house" style tactical situations reported at the time of the battle.

    e.g. Off the top of my head I can see medium and heavy machine guns, man portable missiles, vehicle mounted auto cannon/missiles , bulldozers and demolition charges etc as well as various GPS munitions as being far more useful practical for breaching walls and roadblocks. So my questions are:

    Does anyone know if D.U rounds were used in any quantity in Fallujah?
    Was W.P. used much? (And is it even carcinogenic?)

    If the answers to the above are know then I suspect any spike in birth defects is far more likely to be attributed to contamination from Saddam era waste dumps or other causes and the locals however unfortunate their positions have simply latched onto the U.S. troops as a potential source of financial compensation for their plight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading/listening to media reports about what is alleged to be a sudden sharp increase in the level of birth defects being detected in the town of Fallujah. Local doctors and townspeople are apparently claiming that the cause can be traced to the use of D.U. rounds and white phosphorous by U.S. troops during the battle against Sunni??? insurgents.
    I could be way off on this, but I believe that there is a concerted effort to replace DU rounds with tungsten.

    Of course I have no idea if DU rounds still exist in the US arsenal, but I'm fairly certain that they do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    I could be way off on this, but I believe that there is a concerted effort to replace DU rounds with tungsten.

    Of course I have no idea if DU rounds still exist in the US arsenal, but I'm fairly certain that they do.
    In animal testing, there is some correlation between cancer and exposure to DU. With the tungsten alloy that would be used as the replacement, this correlation is dramatically higher.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Firstly, although I am not a military professional , if I put myself in the mind of the company/battalion commanders involved I can think of probably a dozen different weapon types I would prefer to use first instead of D.U. or W.P. especially in the "house to house" style tactical situations reported at the time of the battle.

    e.g. Off the top of my head I can see medium and heavy machine guns, man portable missiles, vehicle mounted auto cannon/missiles , bulldozers and demolition charges etc as well as various GPS munitions as being far more useful practical for breaching walls and roadblocks. So my questions are:

    Does anyone know if D.U rounds were used in any quantity in Fallujah?
    Was W.P. used much? (And is it even carcinogenic?)

    If the answers to the above are know then I suspect any spike in birth defects is far more likely to be attributed to contamination from Saddam era waste dumps or other causes and the locals however unfortunate their positions have simply latched onto the U.S. troops as a potential source of financial compensation for their plight.
    1. WP was used sparingly during the initial portion of Fallujah II as an obscurant. The number of rounds was in the hundreds and this low level of concentration wouldn't lead to any defects.

    2. The use of DU would mostly likely have been extremely minimal if any at all since I believe it's primary use is in sabot rounds as an armor penetrating enabler - i.e., for anti-tank/APC rounds. Unless you had a known closed space where the sabot's vacuum effect would for certain kill your personnel target, it would be a marginally effective round and much less effective than HE. I'll be happy for someone like zraver to correct any bad presumptions there since I'm not a tanker.

    3. I could spend paragraphs talking about how your alternate "solutions" are inferior or would have already been part of an escalation pattern that lead to the use of an M1 Abrams doing the job. Bottomline, your presumption that there were superior options available is wrong.

    4. In terms of any sudden increase of birth defects, I'd love to see the actual evidence, but I'd be more likely attribute it to randomness, malnutrition, the fact that much of the bitter fighting occurred around the industrial areas (I may be confusing Fallujah with Ramadi here), and/or the attempts by AQI to create chemical weapons, with Fallujah being an epicenter of this effort due to it being a safehaven prior to Fallujah II.
    Last edited by Shek; 06 Mar 10, at 11:49.
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    In The South As Well

    I've been dealing with a similar complaint elsewhere about a purported spike in birth defects and cancer attributed to the use of D.U. ammunition in southern Iraq as well.

    No evidence of the actual numbers of defects, either current or historical, have been offered as yet. Nor has there been any mitigating concerns about downstream pollution carried by the Euphrates/Tigris systems dumping into the marsh areas of southern Iraq. Further, nothing has been evaluated with respect to POL contaminants and other sources from the southern Basra industrial region. Finally, as a former artillery officer, I'm aware of no use for D.U. ammunition except (as Shek also pointed out) as an anti-armor penetrator.

    There were, IIRC, very few armor engagements experienced by either British or American Marine forces as they either occupied or transited the Basra region during O.I.F. Virtually all the heavy armor engagements of DESERT STORM happened years before and WELL AWAY from the Basra area.

    Last, the northern gulf area has been a region of severe water and air-borne contaminants for ages-exacerbated by the development of the oil industry over many decades. Visibility can often be horrendous throughout the region just for these reasons alone.

    There are a lot of possible causes that strike me as more likely contributors to such defects ASSUMING that there's indeed been a recent spike. That too remains unproven and would require very careful study given the turbulence and associated absence of solid data from the area regarding most any issue much less this specific one.

    My gut tells me that both the Iraqi Nat'l Ministry of Health and also the Ministry of Human Rights are seeking a bully pulpit for their claims without serious substantiation. I'd look forward to their scientists sharing with the rest of us what they think is going on so that we might all get to the bottom of these claims.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    2. The use of DU would mostly likely have been extremely minimal if any at all since I believe it's primary use is in sabot rounds as an armor penetrating enabler - i.e., for anti-tank/APC rounds. Unless you had a known closed space where the sabot's vacuum effect would for certain kill your personnel target, it would be a marginally effective round and much less effective than HE. I'll be happy for someone like zraver to correct any bad presumptions there since I'm not a tanker.
    DU is dense, self sharpening and burns (pyrophoric) when it passes through a dense target. It does not explode so it is less than ideal of anti-personal work. With the insurgents lacking armor there would be no reason to use DU at all. Yes its mildly radioactive after hitting a dense target, and the self sharpening aspects do kick off "dust" so its nasty stuff compared to steel. However compared to tungsten rounds that require to special and very carcinogenic compounds to even get near DU performance, DU is the "green choice for war fighting.

    4. In terms of any sudden increase of birth defects, I'd love to see the actual evidence, but I'd be more likely attribute it to randomness, malnutrition, the fact that much of the bitter fighting occurred around the industrial areas (I may be confusing Fallujah with Ramadi here), and/or the attempts by AQI to create chemical weapons, with Fallujah being an epicenter of this effort due to it being a safehaven prior to Fallujah II.
    The break down in the public health system, food distribution, sewer and water systems you have an at risk population. Add in the poisoned Euphrates and everything required for birth defect clusters is present.

    Levels of naturally occuring radionuclides (radium isotopes, U isotopes, 210Po and 210Pb) in water, sediments and biota samples collected from Euphrates river during the 19992000 period have been determined. Results have shown that the water contained relatively high levels of 226Ra; the largest value of 1150 mBql1 was observed. These relatively high levels of 226Ra, which is one of the main radioactive contaminants in the oil industry, may be due to past discharges of production water from the oil fields situated near the river banks. 226Ra/238U activity ratio was found to be more than unity in all water samples varying between 13 and 242. In addition, the results of sediment analyses have also shown lower values for 228Ra/226Ra activity ratio than unity in those samples collected nearby the oil fields. Moreover, concentrations of other naturally occurring radionuclides such as uranium isotopes, 210Po and 210Pb for most samples (water, sediments and biota) were found to be within the natural levels and in agreement with those values reported for other local and international studies.


    SpringerLink - Journal Article


    You'll notice the date of the study is pre-war. Add in the dams that slow the flow preventing a good flushing and poison in the river does not go anywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    DU is dense, self sharpening and burns (pyrophoric) when it passes through a dense target. It does not explode so it is less than ideal of anti-personal work. With the insurgents lacking armor there would be no reason to use DU at all. Yes its mildly radioactive after hitting a dense target, and the self sharpening aspects do kick off "dust" so its nasty stuff compared to steel. However compared to tungsten rounds that require to special and very carcinogenic compounds to even get near DU performance, DU is the "green choice for war fighting.



    The break down in the public health system, food distribution, sewer and water systems you have an at risk population. Add in the poisoned Euphrates and everything required for birth defect clusters is present.

    Levels of naturally occuring radionuclides (radium isotopes, U isotopes, 210Po and 210Pb) in water, sediments and biota samples collected from Euphrates river during the 19992000 period have been determined. Results have shown that the water contained relatively high levels of 226Ra; the largest value of 1150 mBql1 was observed. These relatively high levels of 226Ra, which is one of the main radioactive contaminants in the oil industry, may be due to past discharges of production water from the oil fields situated near the river banks. 226Ra/238U activity ratio was found to be more than unity in all water samples varying between 13 and 242. In addition, the results of sediment analyses have also shown lower values for 228Ra/226Ra activity ratio than unity in those samples collected nearby the oil fields. Moreover, concentrations of other naturally occurring radionuclides such as uranium isotopes, 210Po and 210Pb for most samples (water, sediments and biota) were found to be within the natural levels and in agreement with those values reported for other local and international studies.


    SpringerLink - Journal Article


    You'll notice the date of the study is pre-war. Add in the dams that slow the flow preventing a good flushing and poison in the river does not go anywhere.
    Good informative post Z , i saw on the news the deformed kids last week , some had 6 fingers and toes , some had stumps for arms , my 1st thought was ,its like thalidomide , but the soup you point out could have the same effects , i have never worked with DU but always with tungsten for sabot , and im ok , just ask them at the nut house and re,hab its a sad state of affairs for the people involved and no doubt , the blame and compensation game will rear its head .


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    I know that in the IDF they use Tungsten, but we also use American APFSDS rounds with DU. AFAIK, the DU is the better penetrator of the two, but first of all, Israel has a harder time getting it's hands on the Uranium, and the Tungsten is cheaper, though I could be mistaken. Been a while since I sat through Armaments class.

    However, I will agree with what was said before, there's no reason at all to use a KE round if you have HEAT available.
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    DU in MOUT is about useless. You would just punch a 3 inch hole in the wall. The 25mm DU Bradley rounds "MAY" have been used but that is designed to kill BMP frontal sloped armor.

    I can not imagine that any of the M1s or M2s even had DU ammo on board during those fights. Doctrine in MOUT has you loading up on mostly 120 mm MPAT/HEAT and 25 mm HEP-T.

    AP rounds are a waste in an environment where there was ZERO armor threat.

    Now, if there were A-10s firing....well I think they only have DU rounds for the 30 mm GAU-8. But I seriously doubt it was ground fire.

    And the WP was probably as Shek says as an obscurant....and probably mortar more than artillery rounds.
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    Shek,
    I don't beleive I implied that anti-armour rounds (be they D.U. or tingsten) were somehow "inferior" to other options. Obviously they are a vital part of armoury for any unit involved in an anti-tank engegement. I merely questioned whether they would be at the top of the list of munititions to be used in an urban warfare situation.

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    Monash Reply

    "I merely questioned whether they would be at the top of the list of munititions to be used in an urban warfare situation."

    You've your answer, no?

    The mix of D.U. ammunition in a MOUT battlefield absent any threat possessing an armor capability will be damned near nil. The more certain that no such threat exists, the less D.U. ammo issued. It makes little sense to waste valuable on-board ammo space carrying such and won't be requested nor issued in any significant amounts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Shek,
    I don't beleive I implied that anti-armour rounds (be they D.U. or tingsten) were somehow "inferior" to other options. Obviously they are a vital part of armoury for any unit involved in an anti-tank engegement. I merely questioned whether they would be at the top of the list of munititions to be used in an urban warfare situation.
    WP is an extremely useful tool in urban fighting. It's primary use is obscuration. You get a large amount of casualties trying to cross from building to building.

    As for breaching walls, the use of tanks is preferred (although you are correct in that HE is preferred over DU). You have an armored platform, and given the insurgent weapon set that was in Fallujah, almost casualty proof, to be able to blast a hole. Of course, the primary reason was probably to eliminate snipers. Given the masonry construction of the buildings, a properly built sniper hide with mouse hole would make the sniper virtually invulnerable to small arms fire. Your cheapest solution (both in terms of casualties and $$ for the munitions spent) would be the use of a HE tank round.

    Bottomline, if you were referring to strictly DU, then it's a fair point. If you referring a broader point about the use of the tank in urban warfare, then you're dead wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    WP is an extremely useful tool in urban fighting. It's primary use is obscuration. You get a large amount of casualties trying to cross from building to building.

    As for breaching walls, the use of tanks is preferred (although you are correct in that HE is preferred over DU). You have an armored platform, and given the insurgent weapon set that was in Fallujah, almost casualty proof, to be able to blast a hole. Of course, the primary reason was probably to eliminate snipers. Given the masonry construction of the buildings, a properly built sniper hide with mouse hole would make the sniper virtually invulnerable to small arms fire. Your cheapest solution (both in terms of casualties and $$ for the munitions spent) would be the use of a HE tank round.

    Bottomline, if you were referring to strictly DU, then it's a fair point. If you referring a broader point about the use of the tank in urban warfare, then you're dead wrong.
    Tanks also provide a thermal imager to help surveil, intimidate and thus can ward off attacks, can be used for deception, and are great for rapid reaction forces.

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    WHO | Depleted uranium

    •Under most circumstances, use of DU will make a negligible contribution to the overall natural background levels of uranium in the environment. Probably the greatest potential for DU exposure will follow conflict where DU munitions are used.

    •In the kidneys, the proximal tubules (the main filtering component of the kidney) are considered to be the main site of potential damage from chemical toxicity of uranium. There is limited information from human studies indicating that the severity of effects on kidney function and the time taken for renal function to return to normal both increase with the level of uranium exposure.
    •In a number of studies on uranium miners, an increased risk of lung cancer was demonstrated, but this has been attributed to exposure from radon decay products. Lung tissue damage is possible leading to a risk of lung cancer that increases with increasing radiation dose. However, because DU is only weakly radioactive, very large amounts of dust (on the order of grams) would have to be inhaled for the additional risk of lung cancer to be detectable in an exposed group. Risks for other radiation-induced cancers, including leukaemia, are considered to be very much lower than for lung cancer.
    •Erythema (superficial inflammation of the skin) or other effects on the skin are unlikely to occur even if DU is held against the skin for long periods (weeks).
    •No consistent or confirmed adverse chemical effects of uranium have been reported for the skeleton or liver.
    •No reproductive or developmental effects have been reported in humans.
    •Although uranium released from embedded fragments may accumulate in the central nervous system (CNS) tissue, and some animal and human studies are suggestive of effects on CNS function, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the few studies reported.
    Im all for Depleted Uranium until they find something more effective, or find some conclusive evidence that it causes noticeable biological effects, with the concentration of exposure found.

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    Thanks gentlemen (and ladies?) for the information. The consensus appears to be that the claims about the alleged use of D.U. and W.P. rounds in Fallujah being the likely cause of foetal abnormalities are probably without merit. I draw two likely conclusions feom this thread:

    1) Stand by the watch plaintiff lawyers attempt to bash square pegs into round holes.

    2) I need to use spell checker more often

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