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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
WHO studies depleted uranium in Iraq
Tank with team inspecting it
DU shells were widely used against tanks in Kosovo
A team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to start a study of the links between depleted uranium (DU) and the high incidence of certain diseases in the Iraqi population.

An eight-member WHO delegation will visit Baghdad between 27 and 31 of August next week to investigate what Iraq says are steep rises in cancer and birth defects among inhabitants of regions bombed by allied forces in the 1991 Gulf war.

damaged Iraqi child
Iraq reports higher levels of birth defects
In April, the WHO announced it had agreed a framework with Iraq for collaboration in health projects.

The framework includes checking levels of diseases, measuring the effects of DU and research.

Radioactive dust

The team arriving next week will work to elaborate on these proposals.

Preliminary studies have shown no links between the use of DU shells and cancer or birth defects.

DU is what is left over after ordinary uranium has been enriched for use either in nuclear weapons or in reactors.

It is used in shells and projectiles to enhance their armour-piercing capacity.

When a depleted uranium round strikes a solid object like a tank, it bursts into a burning spray of radioactive dust.

This dust can remain on site for years, and is claimed to have caused disease in both soldiers using the munitions and in the local populations affected.

The Iraqis claim US and British troops fired more than 940,000 depleted uranium projectiles during the 1991 conflict.

They were also used against Yugoslav tanks and other targets in Kosovo.


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15 Jan 01 | Europe
12 Jan 01 | UK
10 Jun 99 | Science/Nature
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