The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT OF NEWS ITEMS RELATING TO DEPLETED URANIUM, 14-21/1/01 * West's DU ammunition worries ring hollow in Iraq * Gulf war file gave uranium warning. [Includes the following interesting little bit of information that I haven¹t seen anywhere else: ŒRay Bristow, a Gulf war veteran, was last night prevented from travelling to Iraq when the Foreign Office refused to allow his chartered plane to leave Britain. Bristow wanted to see the alleged effects of DU on children in the south of Iraq.¹] * Four nations took brunt of toxic shells [gives details, from military sources, on where and when it was used] * Facts overruling DU emotions [Cool headed, reflective, objective researcher Mark Laity calms our fears] * Are the governments of Nato guilty of committing a heinous war crime? [but not those of R.Fisk, who quotes NATO documents on the need to do what M.Laity is doing Œuntil something better comes along¹] * DU admission stokes Gulf war health row [traces of plutonium in DU shells] * I see no evidence of harm: The Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser attacks the press [He says there is no danger if the correct procedure is adopted. He does not say if the children of Basra adopted the correct procedure or were informed as to what the correct procedure is] http://www.worldnews.com/?action=display&article=5375532&template=worldnews/ search.txt&index=recent * GERMAN OFFICIAL CITES URANIUM PAPERS BERLIN (Associated Press, Fri 19 Jan 2001) Incidents involving DU in Germany in th eighties http://www.ottawacitizen.com/national/010120/5031433.html * 'I'M SURE WE'VE BEEN EXPOSED' TO DEPLETED URANIUM, SOLDIERS SAY by Douglas Quan, with files from David Pugliese, Christopher Guly and Ryan Baker Ottawa Citizen, 20th January [Canadian soldiers involved in clearup on road to Basra. One might have hoped they would have had still more shocking things to report] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1118000/1118306.st m * IRAQI ALARM OVER DU AMMUNITION by Barbara Plett in Basra BBC, 15th January http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=6913 * WEST'S DU AMMUNITION WORRIES RING HOLLOW IN IRAQ Reuters, Basra, 14th January Cancer is eating up the body of little Hisham Khaled Khodier. A decade on from the beginning of the Gulf War, he lies in pain and unable to walk in a hospital in Iraq's southern port city of Basra. Iraqi doctors say the nine-year-old is the latest casualty of U.S. and British "cancer bombs" - depleted uranium (DU) munitions which U.S. and British forces rained on the city during Operation Desert Storm. And they are scathing about the growing controversy in the West about possible cancer risks among NATO-led forces exposed to DU ammunition in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s - the so-called "Balkans Syndrome." "It's regrettable that those who claim to be human have for years dismissed Iraqi claims about the effects of depleted uranium," Dr Ali Faisal, head of Basra's Birth and Children hospital where Khodeir in being treated, told Reuters yesterday. "When their (West's) fingers are burnt, they begin to study the effects. Why do they believe that it caused damage in the Balkans but not in Iraq?" Iraq has for years claimed that DU ammunition caused a rise in cancer cases in the wake of the six-week-old war over Kuwait which erupted on January 17, 1991. The United States has denied the claim but the Balkans Syndrome furore has prompted Iraq to renew its demand for an international probe into the effects of DU weapons. Khodeir lives in Al Haretha suburb near Basra where a strategic bridge was destroyed during the Gulf War by what Iraqis say was DU ammunition. Six months ago he fell ill and doctors said he had a type of cancer called phaeochromocytoma, a rare tumour of the sympathetic nervous system. His father said several children in the neighbourhood had died of cancer. "Before the war we used to learn of cases of leukaemia only in books," said Dr Majid Ahmed, who is treating Khodeir. "These cases were very rare, especially among children, but now this month alone we've had three new cases." He said DU was also responsible for a sharp rise in rates of birth deformities in the Basra region. UNICEF, the UN children's organisation, says 4,000 children under five die every month in Iraq as a result of economic sanctions imposed on Baghdad after the Gulf War. World Health Organisation experts said this week they doubted that DU weapons used by NATO in the Balkans in 1994 and 1999 caused blood cancer among troops from alliance countries. But they warned that children playing in former conflict areas where the weapons had exploded could be at risk. Earlier this year a cancer conference organised by the Iraqi Health Ministry said the number of cancer cases registered in Iraq had risen from 4,341 in 1991 to 6,158 in 1997. Doctor Jawad Al Ali, head of Basra's largest hospital, Saddam's Educational Hospital, and a cancer specialist, said he had no doubt that the rise of cancer cases were due to DU. These munitions were widely used for the first time in the Gulf War. Declassified U.S. documents show that U.S. forces fired about 944,000 cigar-sized rounds against Iraqi armour in Iraq and Kuwait. The Iraqis say most of these rounds were used on the Kuwaiti border and in Basra. "Cancer is increasing mainly in Basra province, where depleted uranium was used, and not other districts of Iraq," Ali said. "Another factor is that we have had 31 families who had been contaminated and suffered several cases of cancer." He said in 1988 there were 11 cancer cases per 100,000. In 1998 it rose to 46 cases. Ali said cancer patients had a higher mortality rate than normal because of lack of medicines and facilities for specialised surgery due to 10 years of UN economic sanctions. U.S. veterans' groups say DU weapons are partly to blame for a vast range of health problems among thousands of veterans who fought in the Gulf War. A Pentagon report last month called such a link "unlikely". http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2001/01/14/stinwenws01024.html * GULF WAR FILE GAVE URANIUM WARNING Sunday Times, 14th January WARNINGS that depleted uranium (DU) from weapons used in the Gulf war posed serious health risks have been revealed in leaked documents from the government's adviser on nuclear safety, writes Jonathon Carr-Brown. The Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) prepared a risk assessment and calculated that, if all the DU dust used was inhaled, up to 500,000 people could "theoretically" die. It admitted that this could not happen in practice, but added: "It does indicate a significant problem." The paper was sent to Royal Ordnance, the military's principal ammunition supplier, by AEA Technology, part of the Atomic Energy Authority, which advises on nuclear issues. Last week Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, repeated the government's position that DU ammunition is safe. However, the AEA document and others show the risks have been known for at least a decade. Sean Rusling, from the Gulf Veterans Association, said: "There is now too much documentary evidence for the government to ignore. The precautionary approach demands we stop using these weapons as they clearly cause indiscriminate damage to health - and that's been known about since they invented DU munitions." The paper, marked "restricted", calculates that at least 5,000 tank rounds were fired by the US alone during the Gulf war. This would mean 50,000lb of DU would have been left on the battlefied either in shrapnel or dust. Using formulas from the International Committee of Radiological Protection, it calculates the maximum deaths possible and warns of "potential hazards" from the possible "spread of radioactive and toxic contamination as a result of firing in battle". Another section states: "Inhalation of airborne DU dust particles can lead to unacceptable body burdens and manufacturers of DU munitions take precautions to ensure that their staff are not exposed to undue risk for this reason." DU shells flare when they are fired, leaving a vapour trail of radioactive dust along the shell's trajectory. Once the shell hits its target, the DU is reduced, under extreme temperatures, to a fine cloud of low-level radioactive dust. The "threat report" was distributed among personnel at Royal Ordnance, the Ministry of Defence and sent to the UK's ambassador in Kuwait. A covering letter accompanying the report, written by Paddy Bartholomew, a business development manager, says: "The whole subject of the contamination of Kuwait is emotive and thus must be dealt with in a sensitive manner. It is necessary to inform the Kuwait government of the problem in a useful way." * Ray Bristow, a Gulf war veteran, was last night prevented from travelling to Iraq when the Foreign Office refused to allow his chartered plane to leave Britain. Bristow wanted to see the alleged effects of DU on children in the south of Iraq. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-68171,00.html * FOUR NATIONS TOOK BRUNT OF TOXIC SHELLS by Michael Evans, Defence Editor The Times, 15th January FOUR countries now share the dubious distinction of having been attacked by depleted uranium weapons over the past ten years ‹ Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia and Yugoslavia. All the weapons, either in the form of tank shells or air-dropped cannon shells, were fired exclusively by American and British forces. The Gulf War had the biggest use of DU weapons, principally because the United States-led coalition was facing a huge number of Iraqi tanks which were lined up, row after row, in entrenched positions along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia border and in southern Iraq. Many of the tanks, however, were old Russian T54s and T55s, which presented only a limited resistance to advanced Western weapons as their armour could be breached easily with ordinary tank shells. The main threat was posed by the more sophisticated, better armoured T72s which were driven by members of the Revolutionary Guard divisions. DU shells, principally fired by American M1 Abrams tanks, were used against the T72s to guarantee sufficient penetration of the armour to kill the occupants. The Americans fired an estimated 5,000 DU tank rounds against Iraqi tanks in Kuwait and southern Iraq. But the low-flying American A10 Warthog ³tank-busting² aircraft fired ³tens of thousands² of DU shells, according to a paper produced by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority after the 1991 war. Britain had DU shells for its Challenger 1 tanks in the Gulf War, but since the British tank regiments fought battles mainly with Iraqi T54s and T55s, they fired a limited number ‹ only about 100. The T72s of the Republican Guards were left to the M1 Abrams, which are also armoured with depleted uranium to provide maximum protection. After the ceasefire that ended the war with Iraq, huge numbers of destroyed Iraqi tanks and other armoured vehicles were scattered across the Kuwait desert and in southern Iraq, many of them hit by DU rounds. The highest radioactive concentrations were recorded in special dump yards filled with destroyed armour that had been extracted from the desert and placed behind fencing for eventual disposal. In Bosnia the use of DU shells was limited because Nato¹s military aggressive action was restricted to relatively minor operations. Towards the end of the Bosnian war, in 1994 and 1995, prior to the Dayton accords that resolved the brutal ethnic conflict between Bosnian Serbs, Muslims and Croats, Nato launched attacks on Serb armour. Only the Americans used DU weapons, firing about 10,800 shells. With most of the Serb tanks hidden in forests and mountains, the Nato attacks were generally focused on individual armoured vehicles that appeared in the open. At the time of the attacks, the use of DU weapons to destroy Serb tanks did not provoke the level of public questioning that is now being raised over the 1999 Kosovo campaign. During the 78-day Nato bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and in particular against Serbian tanks and other armoured vehicles in Kosovo, American A10s fired 31,000 DU rounds. They landed on 112 sites in Kosovo, mainly in the south, and on ten sites in southern Serbia in the Presevo Valley area. No other Nato country fired DU rounds during the campaign. Tank shells were not fired because Nato tanks entered Kosovo only as part of a peacekeeping force once the air campaign was over. >From 1991 to 1999 Nato forces would have fired a total of between 70,000 and 100,000 DU shells, covering a huge expanse of territory across Kuwait, southern Iraq, Bosnia and Yugoslavia. The results have still to be properly assessed in relation to the possible long term health effects for the local populations and for the Nato troops who had the job of clearing up. http://news.24.com/News24/World/Europe/0,1113,2-10-19_966011,00.html * FACTS OVERRULING DU EMOTIONS News 24, 16th January Brussels - Facts are replacing emotions and science is supporting Nato 's contention that depleted uranium does not cause cancer, a Nato official said on Monday as alliance medical chiefs met to discuss the controversy. "Scientist after scientist after scientist has been coming out saying they do not see a link between leukaemia and depleted uranium," spokesperson Mark Laity said. "That's what we need now: facts and science, calmness, facts and science," he told Reuters Television News. The top medical officers of the 19-member Nato alliance held a day-long meeting in Brussels to examine reports of leukaemia and other health problems allegedly linked to Nato's use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in the Balkans. The findings of the Committee of the Chiefs of the Military Medical Services (Comeds) were to be passed on to Nato 's newly-created Ad Hoc Committee on Depleted Uranium which is due to hold its first meeting on Tuesday. Officials said the aim was to exchange information about the incidence of serious illness among peacekeeping troops who may have been exposed to DU debris and alleged links to the substance's radioactivity or toxicity. "They've been getting a briefing on the latest information and they've also been sharing ... the current state of play within their own national governments," Laity said. "There's quite a lot of screening going on and studies going on," he added. "I would caution people against expecting very firm conclusions" at this point. MEDIA STORM The controversy, which took off with a momentum that stunned the Nato allies, began with reports from Italy that six soldiers had died of leukaemia. On Monday, Nato's daily press review was still bulging with stories about the DU row, but Laity said he felt the "slight hysteria" with which some media had reported it initially was abating. Depleted uranium has been used in weapons for the past 25 years, because of its armour piercing capability, and its properties have been the subject of numerous studies. Most scientists quoted say inhalation or ingestion of DU dust might cause kidney ailments, but not blood cancer. However, suspicions persist in some media and among anti-nuclear activists of a deliberate cover-up of far more serious health risks, citing birth defects in Iraq after the Gulf War where DU was widely used by US forces. German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping said on Sunday that media "hysteria" over DU's suspected health dangers was partly an attempt by opponents of Nato to undermine the political legitimacy of the alliance and its interventions in the Balkans. But Scharping added that felt DU had become a political liability and should be replaced by something less emotionally provocative. Nato Secretary General George Robertson, who is currently on a visit to Russia's volatile southern rim, last week ordered rapid action last week to gather the facts and reassure the public. Laity said the new committee would be open to virtually any organisation or country that is concerned, including Nato's 20 partners in the Balkan peacekeeping missions, but the process was just evolving. The United States, Britain and France, whose forces are equipped with DU ammunition, last week rejected calls from fellow allies Italy, Greece and Germany for a moratorium on its use. The DU rounds are considered the best armour-piercing shells available, and the limited, reportedly temporary risks posed by the dust they leave behind in the immediate target zone have been well known to users for many years. Belgium's Surgeon General Roger Van Hoof, who chaired Monday's information exchange among the military Surgeons General, was due to hold a news conference on Tuesday at Nato headquarters. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/World/Europe/2001-01/fisk170101.shtml * ARE THE GOVERNMENTS OF NATO GUILTY OF COMMITTING A HEINOUS WAR CRIME? by Robert Fisk Independent, 17 January 2001 Nato is on the run. It's not difficult to see why. The moral crusader against Serb barbarism wielded a sword made of depleted uranium (DU). And as more and more evidence proves a terrible connection between DU weapons and an explosion of cancers and leukaemias among thousands of civilians who were close to DU detonations, the sword now appears far more disturbing than the object of the crusade. After ignoring the hundreds of children and thousands of adults who died in a plague of cancers and leukaemias after the use of DU in the Gulf War, the Americans and the British are still vainly claiming that there is "no evidence" of any ill-effects after its use in Bosnia in 1995. Or in the war against Serbia in 1999. Needless to say, there is a highly racist element to our concerns about DU. It is only the fate of European or American soldiers that has caused Nato's flurry of denials. Yesterday's Nato press conference claimed albeit unconvincingly only that Nato personnel had not been affected. A handful of unexplained cancers in the Italian and German military had created more furore among European prime ministers than the cull of Muslim or Serb Orthodox lives in Iraq and Bosnia. When I first reported the appalling increase in child cancer in Iraq after the Gulf War, the British government simply said there was no scientific evidence. Now they say the same about the Serb victims. And, of course, no Nato official, no Nato scientist, no Nato doctor has been to examine and investigate the cases of the Serbs from the Nato bombing site at Hadjici, who have been dying over the past five years a fate that was revealed in The Independent at the weekend. No Nato personnel have been to see 12-year old Sladjana Sarenac, who, at the age of six, played with shrapnel after the bombing in 1995, who developed a mysterious "yellow sand" under her fingernails within two months, whose nails then dropped out, who went into a 30 hour coma, who bleeds internally and, with blood spots under the skin on her face, appears to have leukaemia. If a single Nato doctor wants to contact me in Sarajevo today (international telephone: 00387-33-288000, extension 215), I will personally drive him to Sladjana's unlit home at Bratunac (her parents spend so much in medical expenses that they can't pay the electricity bill) so that he can see her. However, I expect no calls. Nato says it has no evidence. The truth is that it doesn't want any evidence. And as long as it can rely on scientific surveys by American professors often at institutes heavily funded by the US Department of Defence and on a forthcoming Royal Society team that did not even bother to visit Bosnia, let alone Iraq, Nato thinks it can get away with it. The last thing Nato officials, in their supposed thirst for knowledge about DU, wish to be given is the very knowledge that awaits them in the hills and deserts where their tanks and aircraft used depleted uranium bombs and shells. So let's take a look at just one little bit of evidence that Lord George Robertson, the Secretary General of Nato, and his friends in Brussels have ignored in their denial of DU dangers. Almost 10 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel MV Ziehmn, of the Los Alamos National Laboratories, wrote a memorandum to a Major Larson of the US military. Dated 1 March, it begins in typical Nato-speak with the usual ignorance-is-bliss version of DU: "There is a relatively small amount of lethality data for uranium penetrators, either the tank fired long version or the GAU-8 round fired from theA-10 close air support aircraft. The recent war has likely multiplied the number of DU rounds at targets by order of magnitude. It is believed that DU penetrators were very effective against Iraqi armour..." So far, so good. But then comes this paragraph: "There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus be deleted from the arsenal." Note the bit about DU becoming "politically unacceptable". But wait. Here's paragraph three: "If DU penetrators proved their worth during recent Gulf combat activities, then we should assure their future existence (until something better is developed) through Service/DOD [Department of Defence] proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability." And there you have it. DU should be explained away as an effective, cancer-free weapon "proponency" in Col Ziehmn's Strangelove language until "something better" (and less cancerous) comes along. If not, the poor old military will "lose" the right to use this vile weapon. And here, for form's sake, is the final, killer paragraph: "I believe we should keep this sensitive issue at mind when after-action reports are written." Could there, I wonder, be a more effective encouragement to military officers to doctor their reports on the real effects of DU? And isn't this just the craven, mendacious reasoning that lies behind all those bland statements of Messrs Robertson/Shea/ Laity et al in Brussels? And just for good measure, here's a paragraph from a letter by Alan Casson, an official with the Ministry of Defence's Gulf Veteran Illnesses Unit to Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton on 16 March 1998. Dr Hilton had asked if "radioactive weapons" had been used in the Gulf. Most of the DU ammunition in the Gulf, Mr Casson explains, was "fired into sparsely populated desert regions" hardly a description he would have dared use about Bosnia and Kosovo although "the Government acknowledges that some Iraqi personnel (military and civilian) may have been exposed to DU and to the products of DU combustion during or immediately following the Gulf War, but we have no information regarding any Iraqi casualties which may have resulted from such exposure." But, of course, there is information aplenty about those Iraqi civilians. As the Ministry of Defence, the US Department of Defence and Nato know full well. Which is why they don't want to visit the dying Serbs of Bosnia. Mr Blair, Mr Clinton, Lord Robertson and the rest don't want to know; and of course, they will get away with it. Yes, I know Saddam is a wicked man. But the dying children of Iraq are not war criminals. Yes, I know the Serbs butchered their way across Bosnia. But 12-year old Sladjana Sarenac is not a war criminal. And that is the whole point; because if our governments are at last forced to acknowledge that DU is responsible for the slow death of thousands of civilians, and that they secretly knew this would happen all along, then they will have something in common with Iraq and Serbia: they, too, will have committed a war crime. http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,423861,00.html * DU ADMISSION STOKES GULF WAR HEALTH ROW by Paul Brown, John Hooper in Berlin, Ian Black in Brussels, and Peter Capella in Geneva Guardian, January 18, 2001 Depleted uranium shells fired by Britain in the Gulf war and the US in Kosovo contained traces of plutonium and other highly radioactive particles, the Ministry of Defence and the US department of energy admitted yesterday. The fact that DU rounds used by British and US forces contain far more radioactive isotopes than uranium, which are more likely to cause cancer, is bound to fuel the controversy over Gulf war syndrome. But the additional risk to British and US servicemen was minimal because the amounts of contaminants were so small, a MoD spokeswoman in London said yesterday, echoing a Nato statement issued in Brussels. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna was not so sure that the dangers of uranium containing even traces of plutonium were small, saying there was no data on what happened to contaminated depleted uranium when released into the atmosphere. David Kyd, spokesman for the agency, said: "The science simply can't provide the answers in terms of the long-term consequences. It is definitely worth investigating further, not only in the Balkans but also in Iraq." In Germany, the defence minister, Rudolf Scharping, yesterday summoned the US charge d'affaires in Berlin to brief him on the issue. The Ministry of Defence said the increase in radiation dose to British servicemen handling the shells and operating in tanks with DU shielding because of the contaminates was only 0.8%, so small as to be minimal. However, other experts disagreed. John Large, of Large Associates, said: "Once this has been fired in anger and is lying about in dust, there is a huge difference in the dangers. A speck of plutonium is hundreds of times more dangerous than uranium." Mr Large said the only way that products of nuclear fission known as transuranics - neptunium, plutonium, and americium - could get into depleted uranium was through reprocessing. "I am amazed they have done this." Both the US and UK defence organisations denied the uranium had been reprocessed. The uranium had been supplied from the same civil source in the US and had accidently been contaminated because it had been placed in the same containers as reprocessed material. Mr Kyd emphasised that the research so far on the effects of DU was derived from monitoring miners dealing with natural uranium or the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Over the past 10 years of controversy about the impact of particles released when DU shells hit their target, there had been no civilian research on the battlefield until Nato told the UN where to find sites it examined in Kosovo last year. The IAEA, which is taking part in the UN investigation, was offered some information about the effects of DU munitions by military sources, but Mr Kyd said it was "still sketchy on what happens after vaporisation". Mr Scharping also ordered a German laboratory, testing samples from Kosovo, to look specifically for traces of plutonium. The University of Bristol is also testing Kosovo samples of depleted uranium. Mr Scharping made the move after it became known that a German television programme to be transmitted tonight by the publicly-owned ARD channel will turn the spotlight on documents from the US Department of Defence which noted the possibility of plutonium traces in its weapons. A spokesman for the US embassy in Berlin said the documents were openly available on US government websites. http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4119703,00.html * I SEE NO EVIDENCE OF HARM: THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE'S CHIEF SCIENTIFIC ADVISER ATTACKS THE PRESS by Keith O'Nions Guardian, Friday January 19, 2001 The reporting of the effects of depleted uranium (DU) has given rise to misunderstanding and unnecessary anxiety. The facts and evidence surrounding DU are widely available in the public domain and open to review by the scientific community. DU is less radioactive than natural uranium, but its high density and hardness make it ideal for attacking enemy tank armour. No comparably effective material is available. The Royal Navy uses DU ammunition, but the targets are not armoured, and we do not need the extra penetration provided by DU. In the future, therefore, shells will increasingly be made from tungsten. DU's relatively weak radioactivity could in theory and over a period of years increase incidence of cancer. DU is also a heavy metal and chemically toxic in the same way as uranium that occurs naturally. The risks are similar to those of lead. Ingested in large amounts, it could lead to kidney failure. In theory, soldiers might be exposed through handling or being close to DU rounds in a tank. But in practice these risks are very low, and can be guarded against. The very low levels of radioactivity involved are well determined and given the instructions issued by the MoD this risk is near negligible. The risk from toxicity is also very low. In the immediate vicinity of an armoured vehicle struck by a DU round, individuals might inhale or ingest DU oxide dust generated. So those approaching such vehicles are instructed to wear protective clothing. Because of this there is no evidence from those who served in the Gulf or the Balkans of either acute or chronic kidney damage attributable to DU intake. Some Gulf veterans do have kidney damage, but each case examined has been attributed to other specific diseases and not to their service. No published research links Gulf illnesses to heavy metal poisoning. In addition, there is a small theoretical radiological risk from insoluble DU lodging in the lungs. The MoD has published estimates of this risk for possible scenarios in the Gulf war. If a soldier spent two to three hours inside a DU contaminated tank on dust-raising activities, without protective measures he might receive a radiation dose which, according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection, could generate an increased lifetime risk of cancer of 12 in 100,000. Around 40% of people in the UK will contract cancer in their lifetime. Recent work published by the US office of the special adviser for Gulf war illnesses before Christmas estimates the potential exposure in this sort of scenario as much lower. In any case the measures the MoD insists personnel take should further reduce this risk to a negligible level. This is not just the MoD's view. Research published by the Rand Corporation, by the US agency for toxic substances and most recently by the US Institute of Medicine concludes that there is no evidence linking DU and lung cancer at low levels of exposure, or DU and clinically significant renal dysfunction. Nor was there any evidence to link DU to a range of other cancers, nervous system disease, respiratory disease and other health outcomes. US research also includes detailed examination of US veterans who have DU shrapnel embedded in their bodies and who still have no evidence of associated medical problems. This data is consistent with Gulf veteran mortality. Up to December 31 of over 53,000 Gulf veterans, 477 had died of all causes, compared to 466 in a similar control group who had not been in the Gulf. Of these 168 had died of disease compared to 208 in the control group. Of those, 69 Gulf veterans had died of cancers, (77 in the control group). In both groups the prevalence of cancer was substantially less than to be expected in comparable groups of the civil popu lation in England and Wales of the same age (100-120 deaths). It is untrue that Gulf veterans have evidence of excess mortality from cancer. There is no evidence to link DU with any illness suffered by any individual. We have always said that DU can represent a low level and well- understood risk. But we have also always made clear that the risks are very small, can be guarded against and are outweighed by the protection DU offers our troops in combat. Following some of the sensational reporting, to reassure members of the armed forces who remain concerned, it has been decided to put in place an additional appropriate voluntary screening programme, to be constructed with the advice of reputable independent scientific bodies, including the Royal Society. The tests will be carried out by external independent laboratories. Again I would stress that facts and evidence surrounding this issue are clearly established and in the public domain. Proper scientific and medical debate based on this and any further evidence is to be encouraged and the MoD will remain open-minded. But ill-founded comment, conjecture or assertions derived in an irresponsible manner will serve only to cause distress to serving personnel, veterans and their families. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk