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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Gulf war health checks 'too late'
Image of a tank
DU is used in armour-piercing shells
Tests to detect uranium in the bodies of Gulf war soldiers are 14 years too late, say veterans.

The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association accused the Ministry of Defence of deliberately dragging its feet.

Screening has started, but veterans say this will not help the thousands with years of un-explained ill health.

The MoD said uranium was not considered an issue until 2001 and testing was offered at the soonest possible date.

To test for it 14 years later is far too late.
Ray Bristow of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association

Support groups claim some 6,000 British veterans have suffered unexplained poor health since the 1991 war.

In 2001, the MoD agreed to a voluntary screening programme for UK service personnel and civilians who had served in the Balkans and the Gulf war and could have been exposed to depleted uranium (DU).

An independent committee, the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, was appointed that year to oversee the project, which included scientists and veterans' representatives..

It is now making screening available for those who wish to be tested.

But many military and civilian personnel exposed to radiation while serving in the Gulf war believe they may have levels of DU in their bodies that can no longer be detected by the urine test. They worry DU may have damaged their health.

Gulf war syndrome

Head of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, Ray Bristow, believes the MoD deliberately delayed testing to ensure enough time had passed so there would be less chance of detecting anything.

"It's nothing more than hogwash," he said.

Mr Bristow who worked as a medic during the Gulf war and was a veteran's representative on the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, paid to be tested in the US in 1998.

"The experts who tested me told me it might not be possible to detect it eight to 10 years, and certainly 10-12 years, after exposure.

There is some uncertainty. The availability of this test helps us look directly at whether people were exposed and, if so, how much.
Professor David Coggon, chairman of the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board

"So to test for it 14 years later is far too late," he said.

Mr Bristow said he had levels 100 times the safe limit for DU exposure and now goes for health screens every six months to check for cancer.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Defence said the test had been made available at the soonest possible date.

Professor David Coggon, chairman of the independent committee overseeing the screening, said the tests would be accurate and sensitive and that it had taken three years to ensure the test was "fit to purpose".

He said the available scientific evidence suggested it was extremely unlikely that the vast majority people had sufficient exposure for their health to be damaged.

"But there is some uncertainty. The availability of this test helps us look directly at whether people were exposed and, if so, how much," he said.


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