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Low Level Radiation Campaign response to
SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION?
Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons

Dan Fahey; March 12, 2003

(Fahey's paper can be read at: http://www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/pdf/dumyths.pdf)

 

13th March 2003

The Low Level Radiation Campaign's web site www.llrc.org contains three reports which falsify Dan Fahey's assertion (his page 11) that there are no credible studies linking exposure to DU with any cancers or illnesses among people in Iraq, the Balkans ....etc.

Health Risks following Exposure to Aerosols produced by the use of Depleted Uranium Weapons Presentation by Dr. Chris Busby to Public conference on DU Prague, 24 and 25th Nov. 2001 (a pdf file downloadable from this site) gives data from the Sarajevo Cancer Registry showing that rates (not crude numbers) of many cancers increased dramatically after the conflict.

The effects of DU - lymphoma incidence in Italian troops returned from peacekeeping duty in Bosnia (as a pdf file downloadable from this site) is about research by the Italian army showing a 7.9-fold excess of lymphoma in this population.

Radioactive Times Vol. 4 no 2. has a story entitled Desert Storm. This has cancer registry data which show major anomalies in rates of childhood leukaemia in areas where DU was used.

Overall Dan Fahey's report falls into the trap of overlooking the novel and uniquely man- made type of exposure resulting from the aerosolisation of DU, the extreme mobility of the resulting dust and its ability to be resuspended, and the underestimation of hazard from chronic doses to lymph tissue following inhalation of the dust.


Here is correspondence between LLRC, Dan Fahey and Dr Chris Busby, author of the Prague paper and the report on Italian peacekeepers cited above.

Dan Fahey's reply 13th March 2003:

Rather than refute my report, the studies you cite support my contention that the claims about DU are not backed up by evidence.

Overall, the reports you cite do not prove that people who were actually exposed to DU developed the observed effects.

You claim Busby's paper refutes my report, but Busby simply suggests DU is responsible for cancers in Sarajevo because "Sarajevo is close to the town where Nic Priest took urine samples and found DU contamination in people," (p. 14 of the report on the LLRC site). We don't even know if the people who developed cancer were exposed to DU. How exactly does this refute my report?

There is no evidence the Italian soldiers were exposed to DU, and it is not sufficient to say DU is the cause of their lymphomas simply because the veterans were in a geographic region where DU was used. We should be asking what else they might have been exposed to, and to evaluate DU in that light so that we can identify and correct any environmental hazards that might be causing the observed effects.

Similarly, the rates of childhood leukemias cannot be blamed on DU simply because the children live in a geographic region where DU was used. It might be reasonable to suggest, after rigorous analysis, that DU could possibly be causing some of the effects, but it is inaccurate to simply blame DU because it is known or supsected DU was used in certain areas without some kind of study showing the children were actually exposed, or at the least very likely to have been exposed to DU.

If you look at my recommendations, I call for population studies to be conducted so that we can understand if DU is a causative or contributing factor in the observed effects.

Rather than "falsify" my claims, the studies you cite actually support my report and its conclusions, and I thank you for bringing this to the attention of a larger audience.

Sincerely,
Dan Fahey

Chris Busby replies to Dan Fahey (14th March 2003):

In epidemiology, it is very seldom that we can obtain a result that proves causation beyond doubt. So under these circumstances, we have to see the argument more from the point of a courtroom, where the weight of total evidence ius weighed and the finding of guilty is on the balance of probability. There is also the point of mechanism and plausibility. We use induction. What to the cancer and infant effects in these areas have in common? What kind of cause could there be that makes these effects occur? If we are looking at cancer and infant effects we are looking at genetic damage. Yhen we want to find a mutagen or carcinogen. What mutagen or carcinogen ties all the increses in cancer together? Radiation and micron particles. This brings in Sellafield and Chernobyl. And so forth. The jury then decides. Of course, if the jury are paid by the people who make the DU and use it then they start asking the kinds of questions that Dan is asking, and there is business as usual.

Best wishes
Chris

Richard Bramhall's email (14th March 2003) to Davey Garland re Dan Fahey's reply (above):

--------------- reply ----------------

Dear Davey

Yes, Fahey sent it to us as well. Please feel free circulate this response.

His argument is silly. We meet it frequently when discussing evidence with people who are embedded in the conventional view of radiation risk. It's a reductionist and essentially anti-scientific technique; it consists of taking one or two (or, in this case, three) bits of the evidence and saying that each on its own proves nothing. The papers on the LLRC site (www.llrc.org) contain an entire argument demonstrating that the theoretical basis of the ICRP model is fatally flawed. Much evidence of disease in populations exposed to radioactive pollution (not only DU) supports our case empirically; the sharp increase in infant leukaemia reported from several countries after Chernobyl is an irrefutable example, defining an error in the ICRP risk factor of some hundred fold.

The British Government has established a scientific advisory committee to decide whether the ICRP model is valid for internal radionuclides (see www.cerrie.org.

The European Committee on Radiation Risk has recently published its 2003 Recommendations (see www.euradcom.org for details). The Committee has developed weighting factors for various types of exposure which ICRP treats simply on an averaged dose model. The ECRR factors include a "Biophysical Hazard Factor (Wj)" to allow, among other types of exposure, for the effectiveness of chronic local doses to the small volumes of body tissue which surround incorporated hot or warm particles - insoluble DU oxides, for example. The Factor Wj for internal insoluble particulates is given as between 20 and 1000 depending on activity, particle size and dose (noting that Tamplin and Cochran in 1974 calculated an enhancement of dose for Plutonium oxide hot particles as high as 115,000). As I understand it the word "enhancement" means "conferring a greater hazard than the same dose averaged over a mass of tissue in the order of 1 kilogram" (the usual ICRP fudge)

We agree with Fahey's recommendation for research in exposed populations but he is saying that no such research has yet been done, and that is patently wrong. We are not impressed by his assertion that "We don't even know if the people who developed cancer were exposed to DU" - the point is that the DU dust is highly mobile and could be found all over the conflict regions if appropriate techniques were used. We have not been back to the Balkans recently but for all we know DU is still being resuspended. In discussions at the UK MoD's DU Oversight Board it has been said that one problem in researching DU is the difficulty of finding uncontaminated controls. This may explain why the cameraman tested positive in Nick Priest's study for BBC Scotland.

Fahey's sentence: "We should be asking what else they might have been exposed to, and to evaluate DU in that light so that we can identify and correct any environmental hazards that might be causing the observed effects" is confused and redundant - a recipe for fudge and delay.

After 1991 we heard a lot about other mutagens in Iraq and the great significance of the findings from the Balkans is that the common factor was DU. The great significance of the findings of the Italian Army is that there is a good baseline for generating an expected number of lymphomas; this is in contrast to the nightmarish difficulties of doing epidemiology in a war zone.

In conclusion, there is now plenty of information to indicate that DU weapons are contrary to international law, on account of their indiscriminate effects [see footnote].

Yours sincerely
Richard Bramhall
Low Level Radiation Campaign
bramhall@llrc.org

Dan Fahey's reply to Richard Bramhall (14th March 2003):

Richard,

You still don't answer the assertion made in my report, which is that there are no studies linking DU to observed effects. You are making a fatal flaw if you do not think it is necessary to have evidence that the Italian soldiers - or others - were even potentially exposed to DU before suggesting that their lymphomas are related to DU. Yes DU is mobile, but so are many other chemicals and heavy metals. The reports on your web site do not provide any information about the soldiers, or the children, only speculation that their problems resulted from DU because DU was used, as if the Balkans were a pristine environment devoid of any pollution prior to the introduction of DU. And you are missing an important point: the DU rounds hit few to no hard targets, thus minimizing the creation of DU dust. This is actually good news for people who want to ban DU because it tears away the military position that DU rounds are indispensible. Unfortunately people are too focused on making unsupported claims and playing into the military's hands by talking about how great DU is rather than building a solid argument based on available information and research.

In my opinion, you are harming the DU issue by providing the public and policy makers with an inaccurate and highly speculative assessment of the actual (and potential) effects of DU. Your message [above] does not address any of the key points in my paper. I accept the hazards of DU, but I do not accept claims made about those hazards and their effects that are unsupported by evidence and in many cases, not even plausible.

Sincerely,
Dan Fahey

and Dan Fahey's reply to Chris Busby:

Chris,

You confuse law with science. I have a greater background in law than science, but my understanding - and please correct me if I am wrong - is that in science you start with a hypothesis, and then you test that hypothesis until you have a result. You start with the fact people have developed health problems, but your analysis fails to test the reasons why - you simply assume DU must be the culprit because it is biologically plausible that DU could cause those effects. As I said in my previous email, we do not know what other toxins these people might have been exposed to, so I ask you, as a scientist, how can you attribute these effects to DU if you do not even know if these people were exposed to DU? Is that credible scientific analysis? Not in my opinion.

In a court, you would at the very least have to show some link between cause and effect. In this case, you have evidence of effect, but no evidence of cause - speculation won't get you far in a court, I'm afraid.

As with LLRC, you are actually making my case stronger by making the weaknesses of your argument even more apparent, and I thank you for that.

Sincerely,
Dan Fahey

and Chris Busby replies to Dan Fahey:

>From: Dr Chris Busby
>To: Richard Bramhall
>CC: davey garland , Daniel Fahey
>
>Subject: Re: [DU Information List] Dan Fahey article on "Science or Science
>Fiction
>Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 12:03:44 -0000 > >

Actually, you have the wrong idea about Science. Read Bruno Latour, Science in Action, Harvard 1987. The hypothesis testing is OK with Newton's Laws but gets more complex in areas of biology and stochastic risk. Apart from that it's a case of 'You can't wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep'.

Cheers
Chris
ps Get hold of the ECRR2003 recommendations (see www.euradcom.org) where all this is explained.

Dan Fahey's reply to Chris Busby:

Chris,

I'm wide awake, which is why I can see that your reports lack convincing evidence between cause and effect to support your conclusions. There's no doubt DU is harmful, but considerable doubt about who has actually been exposed to it. You and others have constructed a house of cards on DU - building one speculation on top of another - that can not stand up to even the cursory scrutiny I have put it under, as is becoming clear to the many people who are thanking me for writing this report.

Sincerely,
Dan Fahey

Richard Bramhall comments (15th March 2003):

This debate has got to the stage where Dan is repeating arguments - specifically the "cursory examination" one which I answered earlier - and I don't see any point in going on with it.

Richard Bramhall
Low Level Radiation Campaign
bramhall@llrc.org

There has been no further correspondence.


Anti-DU activist Professor Doug Rokke has spoken out recently on legality of DU. In comments reported in the Scottish Sunday Herald and the UK's Independent he describes the use of DU weapons as "illegal". See http://truthout.org/docs_03/040103F.shtml and http://www.rediff.com/us/2003/mar/31iraq3.htm
Rokke is a veteran of the first Gulf War. Most of the men who worked with him on decontaminating equipment have died and he himself suffers from DU induced illness.
We at LLRC said in 1999 that use of DU in munitions contravenes Article 3 of the UN CONVENTION ON PROHIBITIONS OR RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS WHICH MAY BE DEEMED TO BE EXCESSIVELY INJURIOUS OR TO HAVE INDISCRIMINATE EFFECTS AND PROTOCOLS (1980) Click here.


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