Radioactive weapons used by U.S./NATO in Kosovo

International Action Center
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Press Contact: Sara Flounders or John Catalinotto, 212-633-6646

April 1, 1999

The International Action Center, a group that opposes the use of depleted-uranium weapons, called the Pentagon's decision to use the A-10 "Warthog" jets against targets in Kosovo "a danger to the people and environment of the entire Balkans."

The A-10s were the anti-tank weapon of choice in the 1991 war against Iraq. It carries a GAU-8/A Avenger 30 millimeter seven-barrel cannon capable of firing 4,200 rounds per minute. During that war it fired 30 mm rounds reinforced with depleted uranium, a radioactive weapon.

There is solid scientific evidence that the depleted uranium residue left in Iraq is responsible for a large increase in stillbirths, children born with defects, and childhood leukemia and other cancers in the area of southern Iraq near Basra, where most of these shells were fired. Many U.S. veterans groups also say that DU residues contributed to the condition called "Gulf War Syndrome" that has affected close to 100,000 service people in the U.S. and Britain with chronic sickness.

John Catalinotto, a spokesperson from the Depleted Uranium Education Project of the International Action Center and an editor of the 1997 book Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium, said the use of DU weapons in Yugoslavia "adds a new dimension to the crime NATO is perpetrating against the Yugoslav people--including those in Kosovo."

Catalinotto explained that the Pentagon uses DU, a waste product of the uranium enrichment process used for making atomic bombs and nuclear fuel, because it is extremely dense--1.7 times as dense as lead. "DU is used in alloy form in shells to make them penetrate targets better. As the shell hits its target, it burns and releases uranium oxide into the air. The poisonous and radioactive uranium is most dangerous when inhaled into the body, where it will release radiation during the life of the person who inhaled it," said Catalinotto.

Sara Flounders, a contributing author of Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium and the Co-Director of the International Action Center, said, "Warthogs fired roughly 940,000 rounds of DU shells during the Gulf War. More than 600,000 pounds of radioactive waste was left in the Gulf Region after the war. And DU weapons in smaller number were already used by NATO troops during the bombing of Serbian areas of Bosnia in 1995.

"The use of Warthogs with DU shells threatens to make a nuclear wasteland of Kosovo," Flounders said. " The pentagon is laying waste to the very people--along with their children--they claim to be saving; this is another reason for fighting to end NATO's attack on Yugoslavia.

"Worldwide protests against these bombings are growing. The U.S. use of radioactive weapons must be linked to all the protests and opposition that is taking place internationally to the bombing. These protests must be joined by environmental activists, veterans groups, anti-nuclear groups, and all those who know the long-term destruction to the environment and to whole civilian populations that this type of warfare will cause."

Flounders said that Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium, which has been translated and published in Arabic and Japanese, will be coming out soon with a second edition.

 

 

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