It was during the Gulf War that Western armies first began firing uranium-tipped weapons, which are prized for their armor-piercing abilities. Since then, a number of veterans suffering unexplained symptoms have suggested there may be a link between their illnesses and the use of depleted-uranium ordnance. Depleted uranium is not radioactive, and speculation over its potential health effects focus on its toxicity as a heavy metal. It is precisely its weight 1.7 times that of lead that allows depleted-uranium shells to pass through all sorts of armored surfaces that might stop steel, brass or copper, and makes it an attractive tank-busting weapon. Depleted-uranium ordnance was originally used on A-10 tank-busting bombers, but during the Kosovo campaign was used in an even wider range of weapons.
Many studies, no links
The Pentagon hasn't been dodging the issue. It has commissioned exhaustive studies, backed up by research by such respected independent bodies as the Institute of Medicine, that have been unable to sustain a causal link between exposure to depleted uranium and various ailments suffered by U.S. personnel who served in the Gulf. After all, from a political point of view, the Pentagon would prefer to resolve the issue, since the military gets blamed as long as the mystery remains. Judging by their response to Gulf War Syndrome, it's safe to assume that the U.S. military won't deny that there may be a problem; they're simply not prepared to blame the problem on depleted-uranium weapons in the absence of stronger evidence. Of course the fact that U.S. allies are calling for a more comprehensive review of the impact of depleted uranium may press the Pentagon to mount further studies in the coming years. But until they’ve proved a connection between illness and the ordinance, it's a safe bet that when an A-10 is being armed to go after some enemy’s armor, it'll be carrying depleted-uranium rounds.