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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK

World: Americas

US army announces 'green' bullet

The US Army says it plans to use "greener" ammunition

The US Army has begun producing a new type of "green" bullet, which it says is kinder to the environment because unlike most conventional bullets, it does not contain lead.

The bullets are made of tungsten-tin or a tungsten-nylon mix but, the army says, they are just as effective at killing.

So far only 5.56mm bullets for the M-16 rifle are being manufactured.

Jim Arnold of the US Army Environmental Centre in Maryland said the new bullet had also proved to be more accurate than its less eco-friendly predecessors and caused less barrel erosion to the M-16 itself.

The environmental impact of military weaponry became a particular issue after the Gulf War in 1991 in which thousands of shells containing depleted uranium (DU) were used by allied forces against Iraq.

Uranium concerns

A number of scientists and doctors believe DU weaponry may be behind cases of severe deformity in newborn Iraqi children and could also cause the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome that has hit hundreds of former allied servicemen.

DU weapons, used because of their ability to penetrate heavy armour, were also widely employed during the Kosovo conflict earlier this year.

The army says production of the new bullets are "part of a comprehensive programme to move to green ammunition in the next century".

It says it expects to produce around a million green bullets at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant near Independence, Missouri.

However, army officials say it will be several years before the plants across the country are able to make the new bullets in mass quantities.

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