Scare-mongering suspected as uranium fears revive
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EU: January 9, 2001
BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Friday denied that its president
Romano Prodi recklessly stoked a fresh scare over the alleged health
risks of US depleted uranium munitions with alarmist demands for "the
Prodi told Italian radio on Thursday that the weapons should be
abolished if they posed even minimal risk, adding: "Even if this risk
was not there I don't like the idea of using these particular weapons.
"I want the truth to be ascertained," Prodi said, apparently overlooking
a large volume of scientific evidence amassed since charges first
surfaced following the 1991 Gulf War, most of which says no link to
cancer has been proved.
A NATO source said Italy had asked NATO Secretary General George
Robertson for more information on the issue on December 22, but recent
statements in the Italian media had unleashed "hysteria".
A NATO diplomat said there was a feeling Prodi was playing to a pacifist
gallery "but it probably went down well at home".
The "DU" ammunition is the United States' best armour-piercing round and
would likely be needed by EU forces should their proposed Rapid Reaction
Corps have to undertake combat operations in any future
Despite the lack of scientific evidence that its debris is
life-threatening, some military analysts say the ammunition has become
the target of such an obsessive international campaign that it is now
more of a political liability than it is worth.
A number of European allies have joined Italy's call for more
investigation of a possible link between DU ammunition and cases of
cancer among Balkan peacekeeping troops.
Officials speaking off the record say ministers asked about such fears
could hardly answer that they were not concerned. But the United States,
Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Canada, Norway, Spain, Finland
and the International Committee of the Red Cross report no evidence of
According to a US official fact-sheet, concerned European allies can
offer nationals who may have been exposed to DU debris a simple test,
consisting of a questionnaire to determine the likelihood of exposure
and a 24-hour urine test.
A negative urine result "means that the level of uranium now in your
body is no higher than would be expected from normal intake from natural
sources (food, water, air)" it says.
One frequently-quoted anti-DU campaigner, Briton Roger Coghill,
predicted 10,000 deaths in Kosovo from DU contamination, a warning
repeated by the Italian campaign but rubbished by experts.
In the latest issue of the authoritative Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, analyst William Arkin said Coghill's forecast early on in
the 78-day-long air war was made without knowing "whether NATO had fired
one or one hundred thousand DU rounds.
"In the DU world, for every crackpot haunted by radiation, there is a
craven and unsympathetic commander or bureaucrat," Arkin wrote. "The war
in Yugoslavia proved again that whenever and wherever DU appears, it is
a political headache."
Story by Douglas Hamilton
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at duke.edu Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website: http://occhealthnews.com