- The US Defense Department says its aircraft
are firing depleted uranium (DU) munitions in the conflict with Serbia.
- A questioner at a DoD briefing asked:
"The DU shells. Have the A-10s actually been firing them in addition
to simply carrying them?"
- A Pentagon spokesman, Major-General Chuck
Wald, replied: "Yes". DU is a byproduct of the enrichment of
uranium for military and civilian uses.
- It is 1.7 times as dense as lead, and
weapons made with it are used for punching their way through armour.
- It is both radioactive and toxic, though
Nato insists that it is no more dangerous than any other heavy metal.
- The UK Defence Ministry says it thinks
it unlikely that DU contributed to Gulf War syndrome, although many veterans
believe it is implicated.
- Risks are real
- There are extensive reports from southern
Iraq of stillbirths, birth defects, leukaemia and other cancers in children
born since 1991.
- Published material suggests official
reassurances may be misleading. The US army's Environmental Policy Institute
reported in 1995: "If DU enters the body, it has the potential to
generate significant medical consequences".
- "The risks associated with DU are
both chemical and radiological."
- A 1990 study prepared for the army by
Science Applications International Corp said DU was "linked to cancer
when exposures are internal, [and] chemical toxicity causing kidney damage".
- At least 18 tonnes of DU weapons have
been test-fired in Britain at army ranges in Kirkcudbright and Cumbria.
Most of the munitions landed in the Solway Firth, where they remain.
- The Military Toxics Project and Dr Hari
Sharma, of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, have published the results
of a study into the use of DU munitions in the Gulf.
- Appeal to ban DU weapons
- They say the result is likely to be an
increase of between 20,000 and 100,000 fatal cancers in veterans and Iraqi
- Dr Sharma is writing to all Nato heads
of state to ask them to eliminate DU munitions from their arsenals.
- Concern also persists over the wider
ecological consequences of the war with Serbia.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature says an
environmental crisis threatens Yugoslavia and its neighbours, particularly
further down the Danube and in the Black Sea.
- It says the damage to downstream areas
of the unidentified pollutants discharged into the Danube is unclear. Ten
million people depend on the river for drinking water.