Depleted uranium, also known as Q-metal, D-38 DU, is a toxic and radioactive byproduct created in the production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. It has a radioactive half-life of 4.4 billion years.
The US and NATO militaries began using bullets made of DU in the 1991 Gulf War and have been using it in every major armed conflict since that time. It is used because it is extremely dense (1.6 times as dense as lead) which makes it ideal for piercing heavy armor. The U.S. used 640,000 pounds of DU ammunition just in the first gulf war alone. In the 2003 invasion they used an estimated 4,000,000 pounds.
When a depleted uranium shell hits its target it has it explodes on impact burning at extremely high temperatures, vaporizing into an ultra fine aerosol with a large percentage of the particles as small as 1/10th of a micron in size. This is literally as small as viruses. Depleted Uranium spreads out into the atmosphere through the air where it finds its way into water supplies, food supplies and is inhaled by both soldiers and civilians living and moving through the area. Studies have shown that upon inhalation these particles are small enough to pass from the nose, through the olfactory nerves into the brain where it has been shown to accumulate. Depleted Uranium also accumulates in the bones and teeth due to the fact that the body replaces calcium with it.
Governments that use DU always like to portray it as safe by referring to how solid chunks don’t emit enough radiation to be harmful from a distance, but this defense fails to account for the fact that these microscopic radioactive particles, once absorbed into tissues are in direct contact with cells throughout the body. Once again remember that these particles retain their radioactive charge for over 4.4 billion years.
One of the hidden tragedies of the Iraq wars has been a marked increase in birth defects, nervous system anomalies and cancer rates. In some areas birth defect rates have been shown to have increase by 15 times their previous rate.
There have been multiple attempts to impose a moratorium on the use of DU over the years, however France, Britain, The U.S., and Israel have consistently blocked such proposals. The next time you hear these governments or the mainstream media of one of these countries talking about chemical, or nuclear weapons that some other country may have or be planning to build, keep that in mind.
Some sources (There are plenty more if you are willing to do your own research):
Depleted Uranium Particles pass from nose, through optic nerves to brain:
Concentrations of DU in Bones and tissues:
Sub-micron sized DU Particles (U.N. pdf)
Cancer and Birth Defects caused by DU:
DU and Gulf war syndrome: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/270800.stm
Attempts to ban DU: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/a/89.html