Physicist talks about Effects of depleted uranium

From: "Bruce K. Melson" <>


> By JODI HECKEL , Published Online January 11, 2001
> Copyright 2001 The News-Gazette
> (Note Thomasboro is just north of Champaign-Urbana IL)
>    RURAL THOMASBORO - A Thomasboro farmer who is also a former University
> Illinois physicist and Army expert on depleted uranium is in Italy to
> provide information about the possible health effects of the metal.
>    Doug Rokke of rural Thomasboro flew to Rome on Wednesday, along with
> other experts on depleted uranium, to speak about the health and
> environmental consequences of its use.
>    "This is an absolute nightmare," Rokke said. "This is real. People are
> suffering. We have to decide whether to make a commitment or not.
>    "I'm not going to make the decision whether to use it in combat," he
> said. "But if we use it, we need to provide complete medical care for
> everybody exposed, military and civilians, and we need to do total
>    NATO and the European Union have been looking into the possible health
> risks since Italy began investigating illnesses among its soldiers
> in Kosovo after airstrikes there in 1999. NATO announced Wednesday it will
> set up a group to exchange information, but said there is no scientific
> evidence that exposure to the munitions poses a significant health risk.
>    The United States, which used depleted uranium munitions during its air
> campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 and in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, as
> as in the Gulf War, also has said it is not a significant health threat.
>    But Rokke, who is an Army officer and was a UI staff physicist from
> to 1996, said the government has known since 1943 that depleted uranium
> adverse health effects, including respiratory disease, gastrointestinal
> problems, neurological disorders, kidney stones, skin and vision problems,
> various forms of cancer and birth defects.
>    "We threw this stuff all over the place, and we've got sick people all
> over the place," Rokke said. "There are 350 tons of it in the gulf. We've
> done it in Kosovo. We walked away, and the contamination is still there
> it's high."
>    Rokke said the military uses depleted uranium against tanks because the
> slightly radioactive metal is very dense and heavy, and when it is fired
> high speed, it can penetrate tank armor. The rounds used against tanks are
> 3/4 inch in diameter, 18 inches long and contain 10 pounds of solid
>    The metal is also soft and malleable, and when it penetrates a target,
> pieces of the metal are shaved off and catch fire. NATO has acknowledged
> there is a risk of contamination from breathing dust from an exploded
> depleted uranium shell.
>    Rokke has seen the effects of depleted uranium firsthand. He was in the
> Persian Gulf in 1990 as part of an Army medical team that was to provide
> recommendations on training for military personnel who might come in
> with depleted uranium, medical care for those exposed to it and recovery
> contaminated equipment.
>    He said members of the Persian Gulf team got sick within a week of
> exposure, and 20 of the 100 active team members have died. Rokke said he
> had respiratory and skin problems, and his commander was diagnosed with
> cancer about seven months after his return from the gulf.
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