Victim blows lid on uranium risk

A British man is suing a civilian company over radiological contamination allegedly suffered while unknowingly working with depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium affects soldier and civilian alike

Richard David was an engineer and machinist from 1985 to 1995 in an aerospace firm based in England.

His job required him to fine finish metal components with a scouring pad, producing a dust resembling talcum power.

David now believes this powder was an alloy which included depleted uranium – a material of which ordinary workers had no knowledge.

His throat caused him immense pain even after the first few months of work, but when he eventually left for health reasons – his lungs and wind-pipe had suffered irreparable damage.
Toll on health

Fifty-year-old David has seen his health deteriorate over the last 15 years and has watched former middle-aged work-mates die of all types of cancers and disease.

His manager died within months of retiring – a victim of throat cancer.

The daily breakfast routine includes pain killers, a steroid inhaler, medication for lowered potassium, and diuretic tablets.

By 2000, he was also faced with chronic fatigue, various lumps growing upon his skull and a rare kidney disorder called Gitlemans syndrome.

Richard David does not expect acure, just action on DU issue
Richard David does not expect acure, just action on DU issue

Richard David does not expect a
cure, just action on DU issue

But as news of depleted uranium and its effects on Iraqis and veterans of the first Gulf War began to seep out, the engineer began to suspect what may have happened to him.

No doctors had been able to explain his breathing problems, his joint pain, muscular spasms and lung scarring, despite consultations with London specialists.

But no one had considered radiological contamination.

Proving his case

Now, independent testing from the Uranium Medical Research Centre in Canada, run under the auspices of Professor Durakovic, has proven undisputedly that his body was contaminated with depleted uranium.
Further testing in Berlin shows chromosomal damage – which can only occur through exposure to radiation.

But as David sought compensation, he stumbled across the much bigger picture.

DU is not only a military concern. The stark reality is this waste material is a danger to the general public and surrounds them in places they do not even know.

Many unsuspecting victims have been contaminated without realising.

DU for civilian use

After the El Al plane (with still unknown cargo) crashed in Amsterdam in 1992, over 800 families and many clean up workers reported similar symptoms to those of Iraqis and Gulf veterans.

Hundreds of kilograms of DU counterweights in the plane burned in the crash, contaminating the neighbourhood with deadly uranium oxide smoke.

The aerospace industry still uses this heavy metal, but this is only the tip of the ice-burg.

Uranium based metals are increasingly used within civilian life.


Boeing 747s were built with DU
counterweights, gradually being
replaced with tungsten alternatives

In the US, some advocates of recycling DU have hinted that such metals could be used in everyday house-hold products, with DU reportedly having been used some years ago in the dental industry, and within the building industry also.

In the UK, this concern is already being realised with some union representatives claiming these metals have already proliferated into a vast array of various products such as flywheels and car clutches.


No amount of exposure to radiation is too small to cause damage. DU is an alpha-particle emitter that remains radioactive for hundreds of millions of years.

The findings and case studies from Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq – where DU and uranium weapons were and are used – fully illustrate that the long term prognosis is very bleak indeed.

Use of depleted uranium in weapons is illegal according to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

In particular, the 2002 and 2003 reports prepared by Chief Justice Yueng Sik Yuen clearly indicate that weapons with depleted uranium are necessarily indiscriminate and cause superfluous and unnecessary suffering.

This makes their use incompatible with existing rules of armed combat.

But no matter if DU is vaporised in the heat of battle, or when metal is drilled or sanded in a factory, or when aircraft crash into residential areas – the physical effects are the same.

Richard David’s body is failing him now, he describes how he exists rather than lives – robbed of the joys of being a husband, father and friend.

Source: Al Jazeera