Mossback bemoaned a recent post on Atrios showing a shock animation on DU.
So, I did some googling...
Here's what a guy from Brookhaven National Labs (who should know) says:
Some ridiculous claims have been made recently, comparing radioactivity of depleted uranium to the background radioactivity of lead . For this reason, the background total and a-activity of modern lead is also given in in Table 4. This radioactivity is almost entirely due to the 210Pb contamination, together with its daughter products 210Bi and 210Po (credit to Ettore Fiorini , see Table 2A of the uranium decay series). Since the radioactivity of commercial lead is not its intrinsic property (as it is for uranium), it depends on the supplier and the values in Table 4 are typical. Medieval and ancient lead can be several orders of magnitude less radioactive than modern lead (up to 50,000´ less for Roman lead), beause the 210Pb half-life T = 22.3 years is small compared to a few centuries (or millenia) . But the total radioactivity of depleted uranium is still about 60,000´ higher than the total radioactivity of modern lead and its a-activity is 65,000´ higher.
His table above this text is noteworthy: DU is about 1/10 as radioactive as U-235.
But wait, there's more!
Why would, I thought, Mossback have thought DU wasn't harmful?
Well, in 1998, the Defense Department was in major denial about DU:
Depleted uranium is just that. It's uranium that has had its radiation content reduced dramatically. It is a heavy metal and is about as radioactive as lead, maybe somewhat less so. We don't believe that normal exposure to this creates cancer and we have not found that to be the case. We are still examining the results of exposure to depleted uranium, but in the case of the Gulf War we do not believe there is a link to cancer. We have not found one at this stage.
The above mentioned link debunks that BS.
Time to check out the RW bloggers...
Well...here's a document from 1999...so it must be Clinton's fault!
Uranium is a chemical substance that is also radioactive. Scientists have never detected harmful radiation effects from low levels of natural uranium, although some may be possible. However, scientists have seen chemical effects. A few people have developed signs of kidney disease after intake of large amounts of uranium. Animals have also developed kidney disease after they have been treated with large amounts of uranium, so it is possible that intake of a large amount of uranium might damage your kidneys. There is also a chance of getting cancer from any radio active material like uranium. Natural and depleted uranium are only weakly radioactive and are not likely to cause you to get cancer from their radiation. No human cancer of any type has ever been seen as a result of exposure to natural or depleted uranium. Uranium can decay into other radionuclides, which can cause cancer if you are exposed to enough of them for a long enough period. Doctors that studied lung and other cancers in uranium miners did not think that uranium radiation caused these cancers. The miners smoked cigarettes and were exposed to other substances that we know cause cancer, and the observed lung cancers were attributed to large exposures to radon and its radioactive transformation products.
Uh, really? Guess what? Here's a DOE report... here:
Evidently Native Americans don't smoke a lot of cigarettes.
But I digress: the real issue is the radioactivity. Put enough stuff that's radioactive around, and it's bad for you.
Now how much is due to radon and how much is due to uranium I haven't actually seen established, but put enough of anything out and it's bad for you.