BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 17:36 GMT
No DU weapons risk, say experts
Nato tests in Yugoslavia
Nato has tested sites where bombs fell in 1999
Depleted uranium (DU) used in Nato weapons in the Balkans has no detectable effect on human health, according a European Union panel of experts.


In the case of the average back garden, there is as much uranium as you would find in a shell

Prof Ian McAulay, EU expert
The European Commission ordered the investigations after claims that veterans of peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo had developed illnesses, particularly cancer, after being exposed to depleted uranium used in armour-piercing weapons.

"I don't think there is any reason to be afraid," said Professor Ian McAulay of Dublin's Trinity University, who headed the panel.

However, the experts did not rule out the possibility that the toxic nature of the metal itself might produce ill-effects, but felt there was no evidence to support this.

Precautions

Professor McAulay told reporters that precautions should be taken nonetheless.

Sarajevo monitoring
Local monitors in the Balkans have also been anxious about possible radiation
He said it would be prudent to remove from the ground DU-tipped rounds that had not hit hard targets and shattered into powder.

"Warning signs should be put up where there are large concentrations of depleted uranium," he added.

But he said he did not believe there was a significant health risk to local residents.

"In the case of the average back garden, there is as much uranium was you would find in a shell," he said.

The report will be studied by all 20 EU commissioners over the next month.

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said the Commission would consider the study when discussing the need for further action on the health and environmental situation in the Balkans.

Air campaign

The EU panel's findings support Nato's own investigations, which found that there was no link between DU ammunition and cancer among peacekeeping troops.

Nato shells
Several Nato countries use DU-tipped shells
Munitions containing depleted uranium, a slightly radioactive heavy metal, were dropped by US aircraft during the 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia in spring 1999, and in Bosnia during 1994 and 1995.

Some other Nato countries also use munitions with DU, which has 40% less radiation than natural uranium, itself not considered a health hazard.

Concerns arose in several European countries earlier this year when Italy started studying the illnesses of 30 veterans of Balkans peacekeeping missions, seven of whom died of cancer, including five cases of leukemia.

The European Parliament called for a moratorium on the ammunition and Commission President Roman Prodi said he thought it should be banned.

Some experts remain unconvinced.

Malcolm Hooper - emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Sunderland, and an adviser to UK Gulf War veterans - told BBC News Online that there was no safe level for DU.

"Any inhalation of insoluble depleted uranium is a health hazard. It emits alpha radiation.

"There is published work showing that there is no safety threshold for internal alpha radiation - one alpha particle is enough to cause a mutation in a gene.

He questioned the EU experts' conclusions.

"Are these researchers saying all this earlier work is wrong?"

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Joe Floto in Brussels
"The experts concluded unanimously that radiation from depleted uranium would not cause health problems"

Key stories

Eyewitness

TALKING POINT

FORUM
See also:

16 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
07 Feb 01 | UK Politics
15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
07 Feb 01 | Scotland
14 Jan 01 | UK
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes