The following document by Marion Fulk, a nuclear physical chemist, and Leuren Moret, a geo-scientist, provides a concise and essential explanation of the biological response to depleted uranium (DU) particulate internal exposure.
Military research laboratories report that the particulate effect of DU causes 1 million times more damage than the expected damage from the radiation effect alone - genetic damage. Cancer starts with a single alpha particle under the right conditions.
The following letter was written by Marion Fulk, former scientist with the Manhattan Project and nuclear physical chemist at the National [nuclear weapons] Laboratory at Livermore, California.
The letter is addressed to Dr. Chris Busby, a radiation expert who has written independent reports on low level radiation exposure for the British government and the European Parliament.
The use of depleted uranium weapons is causing a nuclear holocaust, with a global effect.
December 14, 2004
Dr. Chris Busby
9 Prospect Street
Aberystwyth, Wales SY23 1JJ
Dear Dr. Busby,
At your request, Marion Fulk and I are providing information and details on internal exposure to depleted uranium particulates.
Mr. Fulk is a nuclear physical chemist, retired from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. He conducted research on rainout of very fine radioactive particulates generated by atmospheric testing for the Nuclear Weapons Program. He holds a high level US Govt. clearance, and is an international expert on radiation and the biological effects from internal exposure.
I am the Past President of the Association for Women Geoscientists, with a background in the Geosciences. I have conducted extensive scientific research on atmospheric dust, the transport and cycling of radionuclides through the environment and through biological systems. I am recognized as an international expert, on the impact on global public health and the health of the environment, from radiation caused by atmospheric testing, nuclear power plants and depleted uranium.
Mr. Fulk and I are actively conducting research on the particulate effect, and internal radiation exposure. The particulate effect is newly recognized as a result of studies on the biological and medical effects of depleted uranium internal exposure.
THREE EFFECTS OF DEPLETED URANIUM INTERNAL EXPOSURE
Internal exposure to depleted uranium is known to have three separate effects which may or may not act together, which may occur at different times, or have delayed effects:
1. Chemical – changes in a substance due to an alteration of its chemical composition caused by changes in its atoms or molecules;
2. Radiological – changes when the nucleus of an isotope undergoes disintegration and releases energy in the form of alpha or beta particles and/or gamma rays. About 30% of radiation damage to cells is caused by the “bullet effect” of the alpha and beta particles tearing through the cells. About 70% of the damage is caused by changes in the cells and biological molecules from the energy dissipated along the pathway of the alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays;
3. Particulate – changes caused by the particle size, the most harmful being nano-particles which are defined as particles with a diameter of 0.1 micron and smaller.
Because you have already provided information about the chemical and radiological effects detailed in the ECRR Report (2003) and the CHERRIE Report (2004), this letter will primarily address the particulate effect.
THE PARTICULATE EFFECT
The “particulate effect” is a new phenomenon. It is now being recognized from research on nano-particles and from the effects of battlefield and downwind exposure to depleted uranium.
The resulting complex of diseases caused by depleted uranium and possible chemical exposure is known as Gulf War Syndrome (Table
Depleted uranium gas and dust, formed on the battlefield, produces large numbers of extremely fine particles. The greatest number by mass on the battlefield are formed in the nano-particle range – 0.1 microns and smaller (1). Coincidentally, international funding and research in the new field of nano-technology has also provided details from studies on the effects of nano-particles, which until now have not been well studied. Recently discoveries have revealed that there is a particulate effect caused by these nano-particles in living tissues. There are now 16 peer-reviewed journals devoted to the new field of nano-technology.
In a normal air sample there are billions of dust particles in a range of sizes. For example there are 1 billion dust particles with a diameter of 0.1 micron per cubic meter. A diameter of 0.1 micron is about 100 times smaller than a blood cell. An average man breathes about 28 cubic meters of air per day, inhaling approximately 28 billion 0.1 micron particles.
This is also the peak population size of invisible atmospheric dust particles, which are transported around the world and remain permanently suspended until they are rained or snowed out of the atmosphere. Nano-particles remain suspended by Brownian motion, and do not behave like larger sized particles. They behave according to the rules of quantum mechanics.
Some nano-particles have catalytic and extraordinary electronic properties, like oxides of uranium, which behave in non-stoichiometric ways. Uranium is a very large and complex atom, with a large cloud of many electrons around the nucleus as well as in the outer shells. Uranium can act as a reducer, donating electrons, or as an oxidizer, scavenging or accepting electrons. Because uranium compounds are unpredictable in the way they behave, uranium is also biologically unpredictable. In this atmosphere of unpredictability characteristic of uranium, anything can happen.
Because uranium and phosphate have an interaction, uranium can interfere with biological processes where the phosphate structure is present. Examples are in the DNA, the histone or Master Code (2) which controls part of the _expression of the DNA, and fragments of the RNA which control part of the _expression of the DNA.
TRANSPORT AND EXPOSURE PATHWAYS
Exposure pathways for depleted uranium can be through the skin, by inhalation, and ingestion. Nano-particles have high mobility and can easily enter the body. Inhalation of nano-particles of depleted uranium is the most hazardous exposure, because the particles pass through the lung-blood barrier directly into the blood. In the blood they are transported throughout the body and may be filtered out by the tissues. Delivery to the cell systems is expedited by transport in the liposomes, and probably in cholesterol.
Because the depleted uranium particles are much smaller than the liposomes or cholesterol, their presence is masked or hidden from the cell defenses, and therefore can end up any place in the cell and tissues. Mild electric shocks can also transport things into cells, as was demonstrated in early lab experiments to modify genes, and the reported mixing of bacterial DNA from lightning strikes (3).
When inhaled through the nose, nano-particles can cross the olfactory bulb directly into the brain through the blood brain barrier, where they migrate all through the brain (4). Many Gulf-era soldiers exposed to depleted uranium have been diagnosed with brain tumors, brain damage, and impaired thought processes. Uranium can interfere with the mitochondria, which provide energy for the nerve processes, and transmittal of the nerve signal across synapses in the brain.
Damage to the mitochondria, which provide all energy to the cells and nerves, can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Hodgkin’s disease (5).
SIZE DETERMINES TOXICITY MORE THAN COMPOSITION
A limited number of animal studies have shown that inhaled nano-particles are more toxic than micro-sized particles of the same basic chemical composition (4). Top UK toxicopathologist Vyvyan Howard has reported that nano-particle toxicity is more related to their size than to the material they are made from (6). A good example is gold which is usually inert, but highly reactive at the nano-scale. Dr. Howard has claimed that nano-particles can move across the placental barrier from mother to fetus.
In a study on fish exposed to nano-particles reported by Jim Thomas in The Ecologist, “buckyballs” caused brain damage and genetic changes in fish (7). Prof. Guenter Oberdoester at the Univ. of Rochester Dept. of Environmental Medicine, reported that Teflon particles that were 0.13 microns in diameter (the size of a virus) caused no ill effects in mice. But when mice were exposed to nano-particles 0.02 microns in diameter for just 15 minutes, nearly all the mice were dead within 4 hours.
The exposure to nano-particles below a threshold size killed the mice, but there is no “dictionary disease” to explain the deaths, however the exposure had the effect of a disease.
Particles in the nano-particle range are a “new breed of cat”. They can get into vital process centers of the cell which larger diameter particles cannot reach. The processes are not fully understood.
Leuren Moret and Marion Fulk
Berkeley & Livermore, California
1. “Characteristics of Particles and Particle Dispersoids”, HANDBOOK OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS 53rd Edition (1961).
2. “Preferential Staining of Nucleic Acid-Containing Structures For Electron Microscopy” H. E. HUXLEY, Ph.D., and G. ZUBAY, Ph.D., Biophysical and Biochemical Cytology 11 (2): 273. (Nov 1961)
3. “Isolation of Lightning-Competent Soil Bacteria” Hélène Cérémonie, François Buret, Pascal Simonet, and Timothy M. Vogel, Applied and Environmental Microbiology Journal (2004) V. 70 (10) p. 6342-6346.
4. AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY MEETING: “Nanomaterials Show Signs of Toxicity” by Robert F. Service, Science 11 April 2003; 300: 243
US Congress. 2003. House of Representatives. Committee on Science Hearing: The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology. April 9, 2003, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
5. “Sandia nanolaser may help extend life-spans by rapidly analyzing possible neuroprotectant drugs” by Neal Singer, Sept. 19, 2003, p.1.
6. “Dangers come in small particles” Hazards Magazine August 2004.
7. “Ten Toxic Warnings” by Jim Thomas, The Ecologist January 2004 p. 13.