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Serb doctor's uranium warning
Attack plane
Nato plane in action above Kosovo
A top Serb doctor says he has found many cases of serious health problems probably due to weapons used in the Bosnian conflict.

Dr Zoran Stankovic, a pathologist and the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, has toured the areas in which contamination is thought to be most severe.

In an interview for BBC News Online he says not only depleted uranium, but also deposits left behind in shell craters, may be causing illness.


Just a few days later her fingernails as well as toenails started falling out

Dr Zoran Stankovic
His evidence adds weight to those who are calling for an investigation into the health risks associated with depleted uranium (DU) used in armour-piercing weaponry in both Bosnia and later in Kosovo.

Nato insists there is no evidence of a link between DU and higher incidences of cancer and leukaemia reported by troops who served in the Balkans.

Seven Italians, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech national have died after serving in the Balkans. Four French soldiers have also contracted leukaemia.

Dr Stankovic said illnesses comparable to "Gulf War Syndrome", as well as unexpectedly high cancer rates are appearing in the local population.

Speaking to BBC News Online, he described the case of one girl who fell into a coma after playing in a recently-made bomb crater.

Coma peril

He said: "Just a few days later her fingernails as well as toenails started falling out.

"She began suffering from various health problems, such as asthmatic bronchitis, and inflammation of the respiratory organs and airways."

She fell into a coma a year later, recovering after five days in a specialist children's unit, but still suffers from epilepsy and powerful headaches, he said.


Our initial suspicion was that there was a link to the effects of depleted uranium

Dr Zoran Stankovic
He said that other ingredients of the shells used in the conflict had caused health problems, alleging that fluoride deposits left behind had been rendered highly acidic by damp conditions.

He said: "We've had cases of not only fingernails coming out, but the fingers themselves."

He has also conducted his own studies of cancer rates following the Bosnian conflict, examining the health of thousands of people who had been living in an area, Hadzici, which suffered heavy bombardment by DU shells.

He said: "That group of people developed a large number of malignant diseases, after the first two or three years, as well as an increased mortality rate.

"Four hundred of them have died so far - more than 10% of the original population of Hadzici which moved away following the bombardment.

"Our initial suspicion was that there was a link to the effects of depleted uranium."

He is calling for a wider investigation of the higher death rates.

The cancers which arose in the refugees from Hadzici, he said, were often in the lung, liver, and kidney, he said.

"Nobody can claim that all those malignant diseases are the consequence of depleted uranium. I would suggest we investigate that group of people where we can still today clearly follow changes."

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Dr Zoran Stankovic
Details his findings to BBC News Online

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | Europe
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15 Jan 01 | Middle East
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09 Jan 01 | Europe
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