Kosovo troops tested for cancer from uranium

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at SPAMgmx.net
Mon Jan 1 04:26:47 MST 2001

>From today's Guardian at:


Kosovo troops tested for cancer from uranium

Rory Carroll in Rome and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday January 1, 2001

Nato armies have started testing soldiers for cancer after a spate of
deaths allegedly linked to depleted uranium ammunition used by US pilots
in Kosovo.
Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium are carrying out health checks on
their soldiers who have served in Kosovo to test for traces of radiation
as concerns grow in the Netherlands about a "Balkans syndrome".

Italy's military prosecutor, Antonio Intelisano, is examining five
deaths that some scientists link to the ammunition used during the 1999
bombing of Kosovo.

Britain is maintaining Nato's official line that no link exists. The
Ministry of Defence says it will monitor investigations by Britain's
Nato allies but has no plans to tests its soldiers.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said there had been no problems with
leukaemia or other illnesses among US troops who had served in the

But last week Belgium's defence minister, André Flahaut, called on his
European Union counterparts to investigate.

Portugal will send military and scientific experts from the national
atomic institute to test radiation levels in Kosovo in the wake of the
death from leukaemia of Corporal Hugo Paulino.

Citing "herpes of the brain" as cause of death, the army refused to
allow his family to commission a postmortem examination.

Relatives accused Nato of a cover-up over the 31,000 rounds of depleted
uranium ammunition used by US A10 ground attack aircraft to pierce
Serbian armour. The Pentagon at first refused to say whether uranium
shells were used in Kosovo.

Peacekeepers who served in Bosnia were also feared to be at risk as
10,800 such shells were used by Nato in the 1994-95 civil war.

Italian authorities are reportedly investigating the cases of 15
soldiers diagnosed with cancer after returning from the former

A military report leaked to La Repubblica newspaper over Christmas
admitted that Italian soldiers were dying from leukaemia caused by
depleted uranium.

The government resisted calls for Balkan tours of duty to be shortened
but agreed to set up a scientific committee. The French, Dutch and
Spanish are planning to do likewise.

The Spanish defence ministry says it will examine all 32,000 soldiers
who have served in the Balkan region since 1992. A spokesman said none
of the tests on 5,000 soldiers screened in recent months had proved

The ministry said all returning troops are routinely given physical
examinations, but the new testing is specifically directed at the
question of uranium radiation.

The ministry medical chief, Colonel Luis Villalonga, said the tests were
designed to calm soldiers' fears. "Spanish troops in Kosovo were
deployed in zones where these arms were not used," he said.

Controversy over depleted uranium has raged since battlefields were
contaminated during the Gulf war, reportedly causing cancer among Iraqi
civilians and allied troops. Symptoms allegedly associated with "Gulf
war syndrome" have been recorded in around 5,000 British personnel who
served in that campaign.

Though the evidence is inconclusive, exposure to depleted uranium has
allegedly been shown to damage the neurological and immune systems and
the reproductive organs, and to cause problems that can lead to cancer.

The MoD said it was sticking to advice that depleted uranium's toxicity
was dangerous only if ingested. It was safe to touch as its radiation
level was no higher than a household smoke alarm.

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