So where does the name “Depleted Cranium” come from?
Over the years there have been many substances or technologies which have become lightning rods for sensational claims of health or enviornmental effects. These include floridization of water, DDT, silicone breast implants, electromagnetic radiation and most recently depleted uranium.
Depleted Uranium has been blamed for everything from “Gulf War Syndrome” to birth defects in Afghanistan to upsetting the natural energy fields of the earth. The problem is that all the scientific evidence avaliable refutes DU as being an especially dangerous material. Depleted Uranium is a byproduct of processing nuclear fuel. It’s similar to naturally occurring uranium, but has had most of the fissile isotope U-235 separated, leaving mostly U-238. Hence the name “depleted.” It’s used in armor as well as projectiles and other applications because of its unique and useful physical properties. DU is ultra dense, hard and can be made into armor-piercing shells which are pyromatic (combust on impact) and are self-sharpening.
Depleted Uranium is radioactive, but only very mildly so. It’s not dangerous because of it’s radioactivity and it’s perfectly safe to hold it in your hand. However, it is mildly chemically toxic. It’s toxicity is similar to that of lead, another heavy metal. Obviously, lead is not something you would want to eat on a regular basis, and lead contaminated food and water may have drove some romans crazy (although only after long term exposure). However, it’s very uncommon for lead to cause acute toxicity and it poses the greatest danger to those who are exposed to it regularly. There’s lead in solder, car batteries, fishing weights, bullets, shot, electronics and many other products. It’s not something you would freak out about having in your home, as long as it’s not contaminating food or a child’s environment.
This is very comparable to the dangers of depleted uranium. Although it is technically toxic, it has very low acute toxicity and due to it’s density is unlikely to travel as far in the environment as other materials. The tiny trace amounts that civilians may be exposed to are extremely unlikely to have any noticeable health effects. It is far less toxic than many consumer products and other materials all around us.
Depleted uranium has become the next big daemon amongst the anti-science crowd. It’s blamed for every disease in the book, for global warming, causing comets to leave their orbit and the impending demise of the human race. It’s the quintessential buzz-word for bad science and conspiracy theories.
The problem is not with the depleted uranium. It’s a problem of depleted cranium! Exposure to high doses of stupid can have very negative effects on your health!