UN Finds Radioactivity at Kosovo Targetsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
U.N. finds radioactivity at Kosovo targets
Pentagon says depleted uranium no risk to Balkans peacekeepers
The Associated Press
GENEVA (January 6, 2001 6:15 a.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - U.N. scientists who visited 11 Kosovo sites struck by NATO munitions say they found signs of radioactivity at eight of them - the latest evidence in a growing debate about the health of international peacekeepers and the dangers of depleted uranium, a material used in some NATO weapons.
The 11 sites that the U.N. Environment Program visited were among 112 identified by NATO as having been targeted by ordnance containing depleted uranium during the 1999 Kosovo bombardment. UNEP collected soil, water and vegetation samples and also conducted tests on buildings and destroyed vehicles.
UNEP said it found that some soil was "slightly contaminated" and was trying to determine whether there were any health or environmental risks.
"At eight sites, the team found either slightly higher amounts of Beta-radiation immediately at or around the holes left by depleted uranium ammunition, or pieces and remnants of ammunition, such as sabots and penetrators," Pekka Haavisto, the chairman of the assessment team, said in a statement Friday.
UNEP said it expects to have the results of its analysis of the depleted uranium samples by early March.
"It was surprising to find remnants of depleted uranium ammunition just lying on the ground, 1 1/2 years after the conflict. Also, the ground directly beneath the ammunition was slightly contaminated," Haavisto said. "For this reason, we paid special attention to the risks that uranium toxicity might pose to the ground waters around the sites."
The agency has advised that precautions be taken when handling ammunition found at the sites where depleted uranium was used.
A heavy metal with low levels of radioactivity, depleted uranium is used in ammunition to penetrate tanks and other armor. Some scientists believe the dust created when rounds hit targets may be harmful, but studies of Gulf War troops have found no proof it caused diseases.
The controversy in Europe over NATO's use of depleted uranium in Bosnia in 1994-95 and later in Kosovo flared in December after Italy's Defense Minister Sergio Mattarella announced an investigation of 30 cases of illness involving soldiers who served in the region, 12 of whom developed cancer. Five have died of leukemia.
Most recently, NATO member Denmark's military health authorities announced that one Danish veteran of Kosovo is being treated for leukemia. They declined to release any other information. Denmark's top military authority Surgeon Gen. Hans-Michael Jelsdorf said Friday he would consider an investigation after a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Jan. 15.
Spain, Portugal, Greece, Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and the European Union have said they would screen troops and check radiation levels where their peacekeepers are serving.
The Pentagon said this week that regular health checks have revealed no problems with leukemia and other illnesses among U.S. troops who served in the Balkans.
-- Rachel Gibson (email@example.com), January 06, 2001
The use of depleted uranium shells constitutes
a crime against humanity. Beware generals of
war crime tribunals!
-- spider (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 06, 2001.
Russian Peacekeepers In Kosovo To BeAllNews RU
Tested For Leukemia
Cancer screening urged for soldiersThis is London
Radiation found at eight Kosovo sitesThis is London
Vinca Institute experts visit the Third ArmySerbia-Info
Furor Grows in Europe on Depleted UraniumIHT
-- spider (email@example.com), January 06, 2001.
Spider, I believe we have Italy to thank for fighting to draw attention to this one.
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 06, 2001.
But what the hell, it's a wonderful way to 'dispose' of depleted uranium! We should probably load bomb casings with other obnoxious wastes such as pesticides, toxic wastes and other nuke-reactor wastes. Hey, why not put toxic medical wastes in it too? We could make every enemy's land into a Love Canal!
Someday this madness will end, but it'll probably not be all that much fun - blinding light, incredible heat, much screaming, shreiking and yelling - followed by the silence of the wind...
-- SheerMadness (Of@War.com), January 07, 2001.
International Action Center
39 West 14th St., #206, NY, NY 10011
212-633-6646 Fax: 212-633-2889
Ramsey Clark, Chairperson
January 7, 2001
For Immediate release
Press Contact: Deirdre Sinnott
LEUKEMIA OUTBREAK AMONG TROOPS CAUSES TURMOIL IN NATO
RAMSEY CLARK DEMANDS BAN ON DEPLETED URANIUM
Deaths from leukemia of Italian, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and other NATO troops occupying Bosnia or Kosovo and other illnesses have aroused a storm of popular anger and concern about dangers to NATO troops stationed in the region from the residue of depleted- uranium weapons.
By Jan. 6, French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and other governments had demanded that NATO identify the areas hit in Bosnia and Kosovo by DU shells and to clarify the dangers.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is a founder of the International Action Center, has long been an opponent of DU weapons. On Jan. 6th he once again raised his call for a ban of the use of these weapons that he first raised in 1996. [attached to this news release] Since then conferences in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1999 and Gijon, Spain in 2000 have also demanded a ban on DU use.
"This new outbreak of leukemia among European soldiers has reinforced what we said before," said Clark from New York on Jan. 6. "Is it acceptable by any human standards that we would permit one shell of depleted uranium to be manufactured, to be stored, to be used? No! Stop it now!"
Clark is leaving January 12, 2001 for the fourth trip large delegation to Iraq the IAC has organized to challenge sanctions against that country. He said that "along with investigating the dangers to NATO soldiers and guarding their health, the Pentagon should be responsible for the damage caused in Iraq and in Yugoslavia by these weapons and should clean them up."
DU is the waste residue made from the uranium enrichment process. This radioactive and toxic substance, 1.7 times as dense as lead, is used to make shells that penetrate steel armor.
Many people, including physicists and physicians, believe that uranium- oxide dust inhaled or ingested by troops in the Gulf War is the cause, or a contributing cause, of the "Gulf-War Syndrome". Of the approximately 697,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Gulf during the war, over 100,000 veterans are now chronically ill. Cancer rates in southern Iraq have increased dramatically. For example ovarian cancer in women has increased by sixteen fold.
The Pentagon used DU in large amounts in Iraq in 1991, in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999.
In Iraq the U.S. Airforce A-10 aircraft fired approximately 940,000 30mm rounds. In addition 14,000 large caliber DU tank rounds of 105mm were fired. By the end of the war over 600,000 pounds of uranium from spent rounds lay scattered across Iraq and Kuwait.
In Yugoslavia the current number of rounds that the U.S. government admits to firing are 31,000. The UN announced on January 5 the it had found evidence of radioactivity at 8 of the 11 sites tested in Kosovo. The 11 sites tested were among 112 sites in Kosovo hit by DU rounds. A United Nations report in May, 2000 warned that Kosovo's water could be so contaminated as to be unfit to drink.
The number of targets hit by DU rounds through out the rest of Yugoslavia was not reported. About 10,000 rounds were fired by U.S. NATO forces in Bosnia in 1994-95.
When Italian soldier Rinaldo Colombo died last September of leukemia, it brought the total of Italian soldiers believed to have died from "Balkans Syndrome" to five. By January nine cases of leukemia had been reported.
In Belgium, five cases of cancer have been diagnosed in soldiers who were on duty in the Balkans. In Spain, two soldiers have also been affected. One died in October. Portuguese Corporal Hugo Paulino arrived home in Lisbon from Kosovo in mid-February complaining of headaches and feeling sick. He died on March 9 in the military hospital. According to his father, Luis Paulino, medical examinations revealed neither meningitis nor encephalitis. His father is certain "it was depleted uranium that killed him."
The Spanish government has launched a study of the health of the 32,000 Spanish soldiers who have been in the Balkans. The Portuguese government will examine 900 of its country's troops.
Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut wrote a letter Dec. 29 to Bjorn von Sydow, the defense minister of Sweden. That country takes over the European Union presidency Jan. 1. The letter called on EU defense ministers to discuss health problems suffered by troops stationed in Bosnia or Kosovo.
In mid-December the Italian government launched an inquiry into why some of their military personnel have recently died of leukemia. Defense Minister Sergio Mattarella had affirmed that "10,800 depleted uranium projectiles were fired by American aircraft" on Bosnia between 1994 and 1995. Without naming them explicitly, Mattarella accused the U.S. military officials of hiding information about DU from allies.
John Catalinotto, a co-editor with Sara Flounders of the book the International Action Center published on this topic, "Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium", commented on the new discovery of illness among European troops. The IAC also distributes a video with the same name, produced by the Peoples Video Network.
Catalinotto said, "It's true the Pentagon avoids publicizing details of its use of DU weapons and has covered up the extent of DU use. That has been its policy from the beginning. At the same time there are all sorts of warnings in studies by the U.S. Army admitting that DU is dangerous.
"Still," he added, there can be no doubt the NATO militaries knew the U.S. was using depleted-uranium shells, which are the usual U.S. anti- tank weapon. In Metal of Dishonor and in news releases in April 1999 we exposed DU's use in Bosnia and warned of its use in Kosovo. And during the 1999 war the media prodded Pentagon spokespeople to admit publicly that U.S. A-10 planes were firing DU shells.
"But the European population is furious that its youth are being exposed to dangers. With the European governments, there's another story. They knowingly took part in a dirty war of aggression against Yugoslavia. They hoped to get some of the spoils.
"Now only Washington, Berlin and London are getting spoils," said Catalinotto, "while Italian and Portuguese troops are patrolling DU- polluted areas of Kosovo. And now [George W.] Bush says he wants to pull troops out. There's a saying that 'When thieves fall out, honest people learn the truth.' There is an opportunity to learn the truth about DU right now."
Sara Flounders, a director of the International Action Center described the work of the DU Education Project based at the IAC. "The DU Education Project first helped to raise international awareness of the consequences of the Pentagon's use of radioactive weapons in Iraq. We were the first group to warn that the same weapons were being used in Bosnia in 1995 and in the 78 day bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. We contacted anti-U.S. base movements in several countries and helped to expose the test firing and storage of DU munitions in Okinawa, Japan, in South Korea, in Vieques, Puerto Rico and the Israeli use of U.S. supplied, DU-armored tanks in the West Bank and Gaza."
"In every country the U.S. government has first denied and then stonewalled any discussion of the impact of radioactive weapons. There is a total disregard for the consequences for their own soldiers and for the population of the occupied country. Only an aroused mass movement has dragged the truth out."
An International Appeal to Ban the Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons (First circulated in 1996)
Depleted-uranium weapons are an unacceptable threat to life, a violation of international law and an assault on human dignity. To safeguard the future of humanity, we call for an unconditional international ban forbidding research, manufacture, testing, transportation, possession and use of DU for military purposes. In addition, we call for the immediate isolation and containment of all DU weapons and waste, the reclassification of DU as a radioactive and hazardous substance, the cleanup of existing DU-contaminated areas, comprehensive efforts to prevent human exposure and medical care for those who have been exposed.
During the Gulf War, munitions and armor made with depleted uranium were used for the first time in a military action. Iraq and northern Kuwait were a virtual testing range for depleted-uranium weapons. Over 940,000 30-millimeter uranium tipped bullets and "more than 14,000 large caliber DU rounds were consumed during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield." (U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute) These weapons were used throughout Iraq with no concern for the health and environmental consequences of their use. Between 300 and 800 tons of DU particles and dust have been scattered over the ground and the water in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers, have suffered the effects of exposure to these radioactive weapons.
Of the 697,000 U.S. troops who server in the Gulf, over 90,000 have reported medical problems. Symptoms include respiratory, liver and kidney dysfunction, memory loss, headaches, fever, low blood pressure. There are birth defects among their newborn children. DU is the leading suspect for a portion of these ailments. The effects on the population living in Iraq are far greater. Under pressure, the Pentagon has been forced to acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome, but they are still stonewalling any connection to DU.
Communities near DU weapons plants, testing facilities, bases and arsenals have also been exposed to this radioactive material which has a half-life of 4.4 billion years. DU-weapons are deployed with U.S. troops in Bosnia. The spreading toxicity of depleted uranium threatens life everywhere.
DU weapons are not conventional weapons. They are highly toxic, radioactive weapons. All international law on warfare has attempted to limit violence to combatants and to prevent the use of cruel and unfocused weapons. International agreements and conventions have tried to protect civilians and non-combatants from the scourge of war and to outlaw the destruction of the environment and the food supply in order to safeguard life on earth.
Consequently, DU weapons violate international law because of their inherent cruelty and unconfined death-dealing effect. They threaten civilian populations now and for generations to come. These are precisely the weapons and uses prohibited by international law for more than a century including the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols Additional of 1977.
-- spider (email@example.com), January 08, 2001.
WHERE TO GO FOR SOME BACKGROUND IMFORMATION
The Christian Science Monitor ( http://www.csmonitor.com/ ) in 1999 ran a number of articles about depleted uranium. Their full- text archives are only available for a small fee, but you can go into their archives to search under “depleted near uranium” and generate the opening paragraph of many stories. Here are just a few:
DU's global spread spurs debate over effect on humans 1999-04-29
Scott Peterson BAGHDAD, IRAQ At least 17 countries already have in their arsenals bullets made from depleted uranium (DU). Many - such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan - get them from the United States. England and France buy DU wholesale from the US. Russia now sells DU rounds on the open market. Such proliferation has raised unanswered questions about the long-term health effects of the hard-hitting and controversial ordnance. ...
A rare visit to Iraq's radioactive battlefield 1999-04-29
Scott Peterson KHARANJ, SOUTHERN IRAQ The men who guard the ruins of the remote Kharanj oil-pumping station near Iraq's border with Saudi Arabia don't wander around much. Destroyed by US air raids during the 1991 Gulf War, parts of this facility remain "hot" - radioactive. So the guards confine themselves to one small building to avoid wreckage contaminated by US bullets made with depleted uranium...
DU's fallout in Iraq and Kuwait: a rise in illness? 1999-04-29
Scott Peterson, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor BASRA, IRAQ During the 1991 Gulf War, much of the battlefield was awash in a radioactive and toxic stew: radioactive particles from depleted- uranium (DU) bullets, nerve and other chemical agents, and fumes from hundreds of oil fires in Kuwait. An array of Iraqi physicians say they have lately seen a sharp rise in the types of severe health diagnoses - such as cancer - that they associate with DU and other war-related substances. ...
-- Andre Weltman (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 08, 2001.
Don't worry; be happy.
Eggleton: No need to test troops for uranium
DND medics see no evidence of harm from radioactive shells used in Balkans, despite controversy
Mike Blanchfield The Ottawa Citizen
Defence Minister Art Eggleton says he has no plans to order mandatory testing of Canadian peacekeepers to determine whether they have been exposed to dangerous levels of depleted uranium, despite growing controversy in Europe over the matter.
"I would take the advice of the medical people. They're the ones that understand the impact of those kinds of things," Mr. Eggleton told the Citizen in an interview.
Mr. Eggleton's remarks were the government's first since renewed concern arose in NATO countries over whether the radioactive substance, used in armour-piercing munitions, is posing a cancer risk to military personnel.
More than a dozen soldiers from Italy, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands who were stationed in the Balkans have recently died from leukemia, sparking alarm among some European leaders.
The Canadian government does not share those concerns at the moment.
Mr. Eggleton said military doctors have assured him there is no reason to suspect depleted uranium may have posed a threat to the several thousand Canadian peacekeepers who served in the Balkans throughout the 1990s.
Canada currently has about 1,800 peacekeepers in Bosnia and has withdrawn the vast majority of its 1,400 troops from Kosovo.
Mr. Eggleton pointed out that he announced a voluntary round of testing last year when it was disclosed that NATO used depleted uranium in the 1999 Kosovo bombing campaign. depleted uranium was used in bombs dropped by American tank-killer war planes during 1999's 78-day bombardment against Yugoslavia because of its armour-piercing capabilities. It was also used in Bosnia and the Gulf War.
The United Nations Environment Program is to report next month on whether radioactive residue from the 31,000 depleted uranium bombs used by the U.S. poses a threat to civilians and military personnel in Kosovo. The agency last week found signs of radiation at eight of 11 sites bombed by NATO planes in Kosovo, including playgrounds and farmers' fields.
When its governing council meets tomorrow in Brussels, NATO will discuss whether to pursue a study into whether there is a so-called Balkan Syndrome from exposure to depleted uranium. Mr. Eggleton said Canada will monitor the NATO discussions on the issue.
The European Union, meanwhile, has launched its own inquiry into whether depleted uranium poses a cancer risk to its troops.
That announcement came as the British defence ministry admitted Friday it has been aware of health risks associated with depleted uranium for a decade, dating back to the 1991 Gulf War and the conflict in Bosnia.
"It must be assumed that not only the interior but also the surrounding area of an armoured vehicle destroyed by depleted uranium ammunition is contaminated,'' said a declassified British document.
Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Finland, Greece and Bulgaria have announced mandatory testing of soldiers.
In Canada, the Defence Department says that is not necessary. Canadian Forces medical officials have repeatedly stressed the voluntary testing program is adequate. And Mr. Eggleton said the opinion of his department's medical staff is good enough for him.
"We have tested a number but we have not found any connection between depleted uranium and any illnesses our soldiers have,'' Mr. Eggleton said.
Only 11 of 101 Canadian troops tested in the voluntary program actually served in the Balkans.
The remaining 90 served in the Gulf War. So far, the Forces have not found unduly high levels of radiation in any of those troops, officials say.
However, the Opposition defence critic and a former military doctor say the government's voluntary testing program is not adequate to address the unanswered questions.
Art Hanger, the Canadian Alliance military critic, called on Mr. Eggleton to take the lead and order mandatory testing. Mr. Hanger said the unwillingness to do so is indicative of a disturbing pattern in which the government does not take active steps to ensure the health and safety of its troops.
Dr. Craig Passey, a Vancouver psychiatrist who retired last year after a 22-year military career, said many Canadian peacekeepers in Kosovo in 1999 expressed concern to him over whether they had been exposed to hazardous levels of depleted uranium.
Dr. Passey said it is not enough for the government to offer a voluntary testing program. Many part-time reserve soldiers have dispersed across the country since returning home from duty, and are likely unaware of the voluntary test.
"Any time an issue such as this is raised, as far as the mental health and the overall health of the troops is concerned, it's better to be seen to be doing something than to say there's nothing there," he said.
"The incidence of stress disorders actually diminishes if the personnel feel their organization and their superiors are concerned about them and are providing caring leadership."
-- Rachel Gibson (email@example.com), January 08, 2001.
Today's (9 January 2001) Christian Science Monitor has another article on depleted uranium, with useful links to other sources. You can read it today for free before it goes to their pay-to-view archives, at:
-- Andre Weltman (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 09, 2001.
U.N. Wants Uranium Sites Isolated
By NAOMI KOPPEL, Associated Press Writer
Updated 11:42 AM ET January 11, 2001
GENEVA (AP) - A U.N. field survey of Kosovo sites assaulted by depleted uranium ammunition suggests that many could be contaminated, prompting demands Thursday that the areas be cordoned off and local people warned to stay away.
While it's not clear the contamination poses a danger, precautions should be taken, the U.N. Environment Program said, adding that children and farm animals are wandering into the sites freely.
"It was a little bit disturbing, an uncomfortable feeling that people were just living their normal lives in the middle of all this mess after the war," said Pekka Haavisto, leader of the U.N. team that checked the sites for radiation left over from NATO attacks in spring 1999.
"Some of these sites were near villages or in the middle of villages. Cows were there, children were there," Haavisto said.
Last July, NATO gave the U.N. Environment Program a list of 112 sites where depleted uranium ammunition was used in 1999, and the team took samples from 11 sites last November. The sites visited included Vranovac Hill in western Kosovo, where NATO said it had fired 2,320 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition.
Of the 11 sites, eight were found to show signs of slight contamination, and a number of pieces of ammunition were found intact, the U.N. program said.
The program's executive director, Klaus Toepfer, said it was too early to tell whether depleted uranium at the unmarked bomb sites poses a danger, but precautions should be taken in the meantime.
Haavisto said local people apparently had not been given advice on the possible risks they face.
A total of 340 samples taken during the two-week mission to Kosovo have been sent to five European laboratories for analysis. Results are expected in early March.
Toepfer said all 112 sites should be visited, checked and clearly marked to protect the local people. Entry to contaminated areas should be blocked, he said.
Depleted uranium is a heavy metal used in ammunition for its armor-piercing capabilities. Some medical experts have said exposure to radioactive dust from depleted uranium shells might lead to the development of cancer.
Depleted uranium was used by NATO in Kosovo and also earlier in Bosnia.
NATO maintains that there is no evidence that remains of depleted-uranium rounds pose a health risk, but cases of illness fuel the controversy.
On Thursday, Dutch officials said four Dutch soldiers who served in the Balkans in the 1990s have since died of leukemia, but ruled out a connection with exposure to the weapons.
Last month, Italy began studying the illnesses of 30 Balkans veterans, seven of whom died of cancer, including five cases of leukemia. In France, four soldiers are being treated for leukemia. Several European countries have begun screening soldiers who served as peacekeepers in the Balkans.
A British Army report written almost four years ago said that soldiers exposed to dust from the shells might be at risk of developing cancers, but a military adviser called it flawed, the British media on Thursday.
On Thursday, Javier Solana, the NATO Secretary General during the allied airstrikes in the Balkans, said more analysis on possible health risks was needed.
-- spider (email@example.com), January 11, 2001.
Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 15:23 GMT Ministers play down uranium risk
Samples from Gulf War veterans were tested in Canada Ministers have again issued assurances on the health risks of depleted uranium ammunition amid growing pressure over a four-year-old report warning it could cause cancer.
Armed Forces Minister John Spellar told the BBC although much of the 1997 paper was "actually correct" it had a number of errors.
The government and Ministry of Defence have previously described the document as the "flawed" work of a junior officer.
But it has emerged that just two months after the report's publication in 1997, a covering letter written by a more senior officer recommended the paper be distributed to personnel likely to come into contact with depleted uranium (DU) ammunition.
Despite the confusion, BBC News Online has learned the UK originally received warnings over DU ammunition as long ago as 1991.
Mr Spellar told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme there was a difference between what the 1997 report was saying and the subsequent letter from the Quartermaster General's office.
He said the letter described DU as "slightly radioactive" and argued "there were precautions to take".
'Low level risks'
"These are low level risks and indeed there is no scientific evidence to actively connect them - particularly to leukaemia, to any current condition," Mr Spellar said.
The main paper "has a number of errors in it ... much of it is actually correct, certain elements are scientifically ... incorrect or misleading".
But separate research seen by the BBC shows that half the British Gulf War veterans tested in a small study had abnormally high levels of DU in their bodies.
At the same time debate over the screening of Balkan veterans continues, with the UK government now preparing to offer testing to those who want it.
The new evidence showing high levels of DU in the bodies of Gulf War veterans has emerged from Canada.
About 100 British Gulf War veterans sent urine and tissue samples to the Memorial Hospital in Newfoundland to check for the presence of uranium.
Scientists there said half of them showed unusually high levels of DU.
The 1997 army report says: "Exposure to uranium dust has been shown to increase risks of developing lung, lymph and brain cancers."
It adds: "Although the chemical toxicity is low, there may be localised radiation damage of the lung leading to cancer. Uranium compound dust is therefore hazardous."
Shaun Rusling, of the Gulf War Veterans' Association, said "This is documentation based on analysis from the Gulf War which was completed by Land Command in 1997, and also the preparatory documents for the health and safety of the troops deploying to Kosovo.
"Are they actually admitting they got the deployment wrong for Kosovo also because of depleted uranium?"
In a statement on Wednesday night, the MoD said: "Analysis in these documents is regarded as flawed ... it doesn't change the MoD's position - there is only low level radiological risk."
That was backed by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir Keith O'Nions, who told BBC News the documents were several years old, had not been through internal scientific assessment and were unapproved.
Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith urged ministers to "stop playing this silly game, pretending they know everything and don't have to tell anybody".
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Menzies Campbell said despite the MoD assurances questions still remained: "Who knew, what did they know and when did they know it?"
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 11, 2001.
US Knew Of Possible Uranium Weapon RiskA leaked US Army document from 1993 warned of the potential increase in cancer risk following exposure to depleted uranium (DU) ammunition.
According to the BBC the document was drawn up by the US Army Surgeon General's office after the Gulf War.
NATO and the World Health Organisation have said there is no evidence of a link to cancer but the document suggests the American military knew otherwise.
It stated: "When soldiers inhale or ingest DU dust they incur a potential increase in cancer risk ... that increase can be quantified in terms of projected days of life lost."
In the UK another early 1990s warning came from the UK Atomic Energy Authority in a document to the British Ministry of Defence.
This document had looked at what could happen if the depleted uranium fired by tanks in the Gulf war was inhaled and said the latest International Commission on Radiological Protection risk factors calculated there could be up to half a million deaths by 2000 as a result.
It said the short-term effects of high doses of DU could end in death, and the long-term effects of low doses had been implicated in cancer.
Armed Forces Minister John Spellar had told Parliament earlier in the week that after many years' research there was "no evidence linking DU to cancers or to the more general ill-health being experienced by some Gulf veterans".
A spokesman told the BBC the memo was clear about the toxic and radioactive risks and said UK troops in the Gulf in 1991 were warned about them.
The ministry spokesperson said this did not change their stance on DU weapons: "We've known for over 20 years that there are risks. But we don't think those risks are significant."
Meanwhile the British defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, has done a u-turn on testing troops for the effects of serving in areas where the weapons were used, and will now extend the offer of medical tests to Gulf War veterans as well as those who served in the Balkans.
NATO has formed a committee to study the effects of working with the depleted uranium weapons after pressure from several countries in the alliance, where several former peacekeepers have died of leukemia.
-- spider (email@example.com), January 13, 2001.
Troops were warned about DU shell sitesBRITISH troops serving in Kosovo were warned to avoid more than 100 sites attacked with depleted uranium ammunition and told to "brush up" their nuclear warfare decontamination techniques while the Ministry of Defence was still denying any risk to their health.
Maps showing the areas where US air force Warthog tank-buster aircraft used DU cannon shells to strafe Serb military convoys were made available in 1999 within months of Nato's occupation of the province.
The Americans fired more than 31,000 of the rounds, which weigh 2lbs and are the size of milk bottles, during the campaign. A further 10,000 were fired in Bosnia.
The SNP will today demand that Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, give details of exactly when precautions were ordered for the UK's Kosovo Force contingent and ask why the MoD appears unwilling or unable to quantify the dangers involved in dealing with the toxic dust created by the impact of the shells.
A number of officers and other ranks from both the Royal Marines and the army have contacted The Herald claiming that they were told to stay away from affected areas if possible and to use respirators and decontamination pads containing fuller's earth, an absorbent aluminium silicate, to dab themselves "clean" if that proved unavoidable.
One officer said: "We were issued with maps identifying the hot zones and told to get our guys to brush up on the nuclear, chemical and biological warfare techniques taught to every serviceman and woman."
SNP defence spokesman Colin Campbell said: "The MoD has so far shown a disgraceful disregard for the welfare of British service personnel in both the Gulf and the Balkans. But if soldiers are being given limited warnings, then why is the department continuing to insist that there is no serious health risk?
"All soldiers accept that they might be killed or wounded on operations. It is only right, however, that they should be fully aware of the risks they must run. It's time Geoff Hoon owned up to his department's responsibilities."
The Herald can also reveal that DU tank rounds were fired secretly by British troops training in Saudi Arabia more than a month before the start of the Gulf War ground campaign in defiance of a Saudi ban.
The shells were tried out on the Devil Dog Dragoon Range, a replica of an Iraqi defensive position created by the US Marines and British royal engineers near Abu Hadriya on the Gulf coast. The range was used by both the UK's 4th and 7th armoured brigades.
An officer who was part of the British contingent told The Herald: "We had never used DU before. But the Saudis refused permission on the grounds that they did not want to risk even relatively minor radioactive contamination on their soil.
"It was then decided that, since we would be doing the fighting and possibly the dying, and that the Saudis effectively would not, some practice with the new ammo was justified on the quiet.
"The disturbing aspect is that we ourselves were unaware of the full spectrum of potential health hazards. Targets hit by DU shells were repaired by British troops on the spot. It seems highly likely they were exposed to toxic dust in the process."
Only 80 British DU shells were fired in action, all by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Another 650 tungsten-cored shells and 850 conventional high-explosive anti-tank rounds were expended during 1st British Armoured Division's advance into Kuwait.
Hari Sharman, an American radiation expert who has been studying Gulf War syndrome in US veterans, says exploding DU rounds produce a potent radioactive aerosol which persists in the environment for years.
A hit by DU on a tank produces an intense fire. The core of the round burns away to a mixture of uranium dioxide and uranium trioxide, both lethal in the long-term if inhaled. It can also be wind-borne for 20 to 30 miles.
Sharman adds: "Nato went into Kosovo to save its ethnic population. Instead, they may be poisoning those people slowly.
"If you're going to use DU in warfare, you'd be better dropping a couple of nuclear warheads and killing the victims instantaneously rather than having them suffer over 20 to 30 years."
The MoD says it has "always known there were dangers associated with DU, although there is still no evidence of a link between its use and an increased risk of contracting cancer."
In Berlin, Rudolf Scharping, the German defence minister, said yesterday that public concern about DU munitions was tinged with hysteria and that the issue was being used to undermine the legitimacy of Nato's role in the Balkans.
The chief prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal has said she cannot rule out an investigation of Nato's use of DU as a possible war crime.
"We'll wait for the result of the numerous inquests" by various Nato nations, said Carla del Ponte in an interview shown on Italian state TV yesterday.
I just noticed a Y2K glitch in the above URL
-- spider (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 15, 2001.