Monday, April 16, 2007

Depleted Uranium and Cancer: What Does The Science Say?

After reading this news story mentioned on a Digg post (Digg my comment) which suggested that an American Gulf War veteran's cancer had been caused by exposure to depleted Uranium, I was interested to see what the science had to say. The use of high-density depleted Uranium in armor-piercing ammuntition and armor by American, British and NATO forces has been the subject of much controversy. Critics cite it as a cause of cancer in troops exposed on the battlefied, and a hazardous environmental pollutant for local residents. Actually, quite a few studies have been done to investigate this matter, most of them by various European countries falling outside the influence of the so-called American "military industrial complex". Here's what they say:

  • A Danish study published September 2006 examined cancer incidence in 14,000 of that countries veterans who had been deployed in the Balkans as part of the UN force. Contrary to previous speculations, no increased incidence of leukemia or testicular cancer was found amongst veterans in comparison to the overall Danish population.
  • A UK study comparing cancer incidences of 50,000 British veterans of the 1991 gulf-war to 50,000 control servicemen who had not been deployed showed no increased risk.
What's the bottom line? Studies have been done and so far there seems to be no evidence linking depleted Uranium use to cancer. Of course, cancer is a slow-developing disease and continued follow-up studies will be necessary to determine if incidences are affected decades from now. So while human beings firing armor-piercing ammo at each other while littering the environment with heavy metals and explosives (ie war) should probably be considered as something that is bad for human health, it doesn't seem to make a difference whether you're firing lead or depleted Uranium. Can't we all just settle our differences over a little LAN party?


Anonymous said...

I think that LAN parties may also cause cancer. The sheer volume of junk food compensates for the lack of radioactive metals. I would gladly be a part of such a long term study.

Bayman said...

LOL...Not to mention the death rays of radiation we're all getting thanks to Rob's fat-ass cathode ray tube.

Bayman said...

Another compilation of peer-reviewed studies finding no link between depleted Uranium and cancer.