Reuters: WHO: Depl Ur not cause for milit leukemia

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at Duke.edu
Tue Jan 9 07:57:58 EST 2001


WHO Doubts Depleted Uranium Gave Troops Leukemia

[Moderator: Please visit the original website for the whole story.
I was unable to find any press release at the WHO website. - G]

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - World Health Organization (WHO) experts said on
Monday they doubted that depleted uranium (DU) weapons used by NATO in
the Balkans over the past decade had caused blood cancer among troops
from alliance countries.

But they warned that children playing in former conflict areas where the
weapons had exploded could be at risk and recommended that soldiers who
had taken home DU shell parts as souvenirs should dispose of them

"Based on our studies, and the evidence we have, it is unlikely that
soldiers in Kosovo ran a high risk of contracting leukemia from exposure
to radiation from depleted uranium," WHO specialist Michael Repacholi
told a news conference.

Presenting preliminary conclusions of a WHO study to be issued next
month, the Australian doctor made clear his remarks also applied to
troops who served in Bosnia under both the flags of the United Nations
and NATO.

The news conference was called amid growing concern in countries of the
Western alliance over reports that former soldiers and peacekeepers in
both areas of ex-Yugoslavia were dying in increasing numbers of


The WHO's Repacholi, who is the UN agency's coordinator for occupational
and environmental health, said a study carried out over the past year
had shown that in a worst-case scenario, exposure of troops was only
half that in the uranium industry.

The preliminary report said no radiation-related increases in leukemia
had been established in miners or workers milling uranium metal to make
nuclear fuel elements.

Repacholi also told the news conference that although millions of people
had been exposed to uranium dust after the nuclear reactor explosion at
Chernobyl in the then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986, no increase in leukemia
had been detected.

Generally, several years and normally between 10 and 15, were needed
after exposure to ionizing radiation before leukemia could be clinically
detected in the human body, he added.

Also speaking at the news conference, WHO policy adviser Daniel
Tarantola said studies in Kosovo hospitals had so far shown no rise in
average levels of leukemia among the largely Albanian civilian
population of the Serbian province.

But the preliminary report said that it did not have enough information
on the overall possible exposure of NATO military personnel in Kosovo to
make definitive conclusions on the cancer risks they ran.

"Detailed surveys are needed to determine the numbers of soldiers
exposed, the amount of DU used, how much exists on the surface, how much
is buried in the ground...before better conclusions can be made," the
report states.

"Breathing ultra-fine particles could lead to a theoretical risk of
cancer," it added.

Tarantola said a UN task force was going to Iraq later this month to
discuss official claims that thousands of Iraqi citizens had died of
cancer and babies been born deformed following Western use of DU weapons
in the 1991 Gulf War.


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


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