As a radioactive material, depleted uranium enters a human body through inhalation or as fragments puncturing the body.

by Danaka Katovich, Truthout

The United States announced plans to send depleted uranium to Ukraine earlier this month. Uranium is very dense, which is useful on the battlefield: Bullets that have elements of depleted uranium can pierce armor, and tanks made of depleted uranium stand up well against enemy fire.

Almost all the reporting about the move includes the clarification that adverse health risks of depleted uranium — a byproduct of uranium enrichment for nuclear reactors and weapons — are not conclusive. Studies cannot find depleted uranium to be the sole cause of illnesses experienced by U.S. service members after returning home from Iraq in the ‘90s and early aughts. But in Fallujah, Iraq, where the U.S. used tons of depleted uranium munitions, the fallout from the 2003 invasion is ongoing, with Iraqi babies still experiencing congenital abnormalities at staggeringly high rates.

depleted uranium rounds sit warehoused in a bunker

Areas of the former Yugoslavia, where depleted uranium was used by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, are likewise still reaping the consequences. In 1999, NATO used depleted uranium in its attacks on Yugoslavia. In 2001, a UN inquiry led by Pekka Haavisto went to Kosovo to assess radiation levels where depleted uranium was used. He said, “We were surprised to find this a year and a half later. People had collected ammunition shards as souvenirs and there were cows grazing in contaminated areas, which means the contaminated dust can get into the milk.” Just two years after the bombing, nine Balkan veterans in Belgium had been diagnosed with cancer, and five of them had died, according to the New York Times. In Italy, 12 were diagnosed with cancer and six of them died from leukemia.

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