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UNEP Identifies DU Risks in Bosnia-Herzegovina

A team of experts fielded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has investigated 15 sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina targeted with weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) during the mid-1990s.

The UNEP team used highly sensitive instruments to measure surface radioactivity at 14 sites (one they could not enter due to nearby mines) These measurements revealed the presence of radioactive "hot spots" and pieces of DU weapons at three sites - the Hadzici tank repair facility, the Hadzici ammunition storage area and the Han Pijesak barracks.

"Following a request by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina, UNEP is carrying out this scientific assessment", said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP. "Seven years after the conflict, DU still remains an environmental concern and, therefore, it is vital that we have the scientific facts, based upon which we can give clear recommendations how to minimize any risk."

"We are concerned about the situation at the Hadzici tank repair facility and the Han Pijesak barracks", said Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of UNEP DU projects. "The UNEP team detected DU-related materials and DU dust inside buildings that are currently used by local businesses or, in the case of Han Pijesak, by troops as storage facilities." "Before using any DU-targeted building there should always be proper clean-up. When people are working in buildings that have not been decontaminated, unnecessary risks are being taken, and, therefore, we will discuss with the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities the need for decontamination inside the buildings currently in use as a first precautionary step. Such a job should be carried out by experts", said Mr. Haavisto.

The UNEP team found that the general public is not aware of what DU ammunition looks like and the dangers it can pose. UNEP will discuss with the national civil protection authorities the possibility of offering de-mining personnel, other local authorities involved in DU work, and interested members of the public an easy-to-read flyer on the issue of DU ammunition in the environment.

The two recommended precautionary measures of decontaminating the targeted buildings and educating the public are consistent with those proposed in UNEP's earlier DU studies in Serbia & Montenegro and Kosovo.

A medical sub-team composed of the experts from WHO and the US Army Center (USACHPPM) visited three hospitals and examined medical data and statistics in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation and in the Republika Srpska.

The UNEP DU assessment is funded by the Governments of Italy and Switzerland. The final results will be published in a UNEP report in March 2003.

For more information, please contact: Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of UNEP DU Projects,,

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Page last updated: August 10, 2005