The Observer (uk): 'Safe' uranium that left a town contaminated
They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now, 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer - and experts say their suffering shows the use of such weapons may be a war crime
 In a paper to be published in the next issue of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, a team led by Professor Randall Parrish of Leicester University reports the results of a three-year study of Colonie, funded by Britain's Ministry of Defence.
Parrish's team has found that DU contamination, which remains radioactive for millions of years, is in effect impossible to eradicate, not only from the environment but also from the bodies of humans. Twenty-three years after production ceased they tested the urine of five former workers. All are still contaminated with DU. So were 20 per cent of people tested who had spent at least 10 years living near the factory when it was still working, including Ciarfello.
The small sample size precludes the drawing of statistical conclusions, the journal paper says. But to find DU at all after so long a period is 'significant, since no previous study has documented evidence of DU exposure more than 20 years prior... [this] indicates that the body burden of uranium must still be significant, whether retained in lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys or bone'. The team is now testing more individuals.
[I]nside the body DU travels around the bloodstream, accumulating not only in the lungs but also in other soft tissues such as the brain and bone marrow. There, each mote becomes an alpha particle hotspot, bombarding its locality and damaging cell DNA. Research has shown that DU has the potential to cause a wide range of cancers, kidney and thyroid problems, birth defects and disorders of the immune system.
When DU 'penetrators' - armour-piercing shells that form the standard armament of some of Britain's and America's most commonly deployed military aircraft and vehicles - strike their targets, 10 per cent or more of the heavy DU metal burns at high temperatures, producing oxide particles very similar to those at Colonie.
TV footage shot in Baghdad in 2003 shows children playing in the remains of tanks coated with thick, black DU oxide, while there have long been claims that the DU shells that destroyed Saddam Hussein's tanks in the 1991 Gulf war were responsible for high rates of cancer in places such as Basra.
As a side note, the plant in Colonie was owned by National Lead (now reconstituted as NL Industries), the same execrable company that brought you lead poisoning and brain damage from lead paint. And the feds have insulated them from paying for the depleted uranium cleanup. The article doesn't say so, but I bet they were insulated from paying the claims of the injured, too. Corporate welfare at its finest.
In 1984, having bought the factory from NL for $10 in a deal that meant the firm was exempted from having to pay for its clean-up, the federal government began a massive decommissioning project, supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers.