Uranium Danger Widens
by Peter Beaumont (Foreign Affairs Editor) and Emma Day (Madrid)

The Observer, January 7, 2001

Radioactive dust from depleted uranium weapons remains in the atmosphere
at potentially dangerous levels for up to a decade after their use,
according to research by one British expert.

The news emerged as Italy's military watchdog officially linked the
leukemia deaths of five Italian peacekeepers who served in Kosovo to
exposure to the heavy metal.

The results of Dr Chris Busby's tests on Gulf war battlefields
contradict advice produced by British, American and NATO defence chiefs
who insist that the radioactive dust quickly disperses to safe levels,
posing 'negligible risk'.  His research will fuel the escalating
international controversy over links between depleted uranium
ammunition, used by US forces in both Bosnia and Kosovo, and claims that
it has caused fatal cancers in peacekeepers who served there.

The pressure on the Ministry of Defence to order its own tests grew
yesterday as the Defence Select Commitee announced it would summon
ministers to explain what they are doing about the claims.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that uranium-tipped shells
have been used on firing ranges in this country.  But a spokeswoman said
monitoring by the Health and Safety Executive had found no evidence of
risk.

According to Busby, air samples taken from Iraqi Gulf war battlefields
last year, where more than 300,000 rounds of depleted uranium were used,
show levels of irradiated particles in the atmosphere 10 times higher
than in the nearby city of Basra and 20 times higher than in Baghdad.

Iraq has long alleged that depleted uranium is responsible for
abnormally high levels of childhood leukemia and birth defects since
1991.

Concern over depleted uranium was reignited last month when Italy
announced an investigation in 30 cases involving soldiers who served in
the region.  Five have dies from leukemia.  Belgium, Spain and Portugal
have also reported suspicious deaths.

The European Union has announced that it will debate the safety of
depleted uranium weapons on Tuesday, further increasing pressure on the
British MoD, which is now almost entirely isolated within Europe in
resisting calls to test Balkan veterans.

A former Royal Engineer, Kevin Rudland, has emerged as the first British
case of Balkans Syndrome, claiming that he suffered a series of
debilitating health problems after servimg in Bosnia.

Despite repeated claims by the Pentagon and the MoD that debris from
depleted uranium poses little risk except to those close to the
immediate aftermath of their use, The Observer has established that UN
civilian workers in Kosovo have been explicitly warned about potential
health risks.

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