How war debris could cause cancer
Could the mystery over how depleted uranium might cause genetic damage be closer to being solved? It may be, if a controversial claim by two researchers is right. They say that minute quantities of the material lodged in the body may kick out energetic electrons that mimic the effect of beta radiation. This, they argue, could explain how residues of depleted uranium scattered across former war zones could be increasing the risk of cancers and other problems among soldiers and local people.
Depleted uranium is highly valued by the military, who use it in the tips of armour-piercing weapons. The material's high density and self-sharpening properties help it to penetrate the armour of enemy tanks and bunkers. Its use in conflicts has risen sharply in recent years. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that shells containing 1700 tonnes of the material were fired during the 2003 Iraq war.
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