By David Hambling April 21, 2009, 11:56 am
The Army has stopped producing so-called “green” training rounds, because of research showing that the bullets’ main ingredient may be more toxic than previously thought. But that element, tungsten, is also in an array of other ammunition and munitions, as well. Which means all sorts of rockets, missiles, and anti-tank rounds may present an environmental hazard and a health risk.
Tungsten was introduced to weaponry as an alternative to depleted uranium, or DU — itself an alleged toxin.
But scientists later learned that embedded tungsten alloy fragments can cause tumors. A 2007 memorandum from the Under Secretary of Defense advises that “in light of our present knowledge of the potential health risks associated with tungsten/nickel/cobalt alloys, please have your acquisition managers and munitions developers and researchers consider alternative materials in developmental munitions programs.” The discovery that tungsten, by itself in the environment, is also hazardous may escalate things to a new level. Could it put tungsten on a par with DU?