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Depleted uranium

The health effects of depleted uranium (DU) are still being debated. Several large, respectable, independant organizations have publicly stated that they do not believe exposure to regular levels of DU is a threat to human health. I may not feel comfortable with the assessments of these bodies but I provied the links as an alternative to my perspective:

The US is currently the main user of DU and has made use of such munitions in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. It seems quite possible that (even more than a regular armour piercing round...) DU ordnance may represent a serious threat to human and environmental health.

A report by the Reuters news service has been excerpted below. The original report can be viewed at: http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=6078

NATO has admitted using depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo, exposing civilians, its own troops and aid workers to health hazards, a U.N. expert said yesterday.

Pekka Haavisto, head of the U.N. Balkan environment task force investigating the use of munitions during the 70-day war, said NATO was still holding back crucial data on where and how it used depleted uranium weapons, which can contaminate land and water sources with radioactive and toxic particles.

The former Finnish environment minister said NATO's confirmation of its use of depleted uranium came in a letter from the Western military alliance's Secretary-General George Robertson to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In its letter, Haavisto said NATO disclosed having used 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition during some 100 missions throughout Kosovo by U.S. A-10 aircraft.

"It was really the Americans who were using depleted uranium in NATO," Haavisto said. "The question we now have today is whether it was also used in Serbia and Montenegro and other areas."

Haavisto accused the alliance of obstructing his team's work late last year by refusing to cooperate to help determine the extent of pollution caused by such weapons.

Accompanying the letter was a NATO map with areas marked where NATO said it had used depleted uranium weapons. Shells are tipped with depleted uranium to help them penetrate the thick armour of military vehicles or underground bunkers.

"The information provided by NATO and the map is not precise enough for a field assessment. We were not given the information we needed from NATO. We are in need of precise information on exact locations where depleted uranium was used," he said.

NATO officials were not immediately available for comment.

Haavisto said the use of depleted uranium in Kosovo was only one-tenth of that in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq - after which there was an epidemic of cancers among Iraqis living near battlefields.

U.S. and British veterans of the Gulf War with Iraq have also blamed serious health problems among them on the use of such weapons. The link is denied by U.S. and British military authorities.

Further reading: