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Dutch Air Crash, 1992

On 4 October 1992 an El Al cargo 747 crashed into a block of flats in Bijlmermeer, an Amsterdam suburb, killing 43 people. In recent years questions have remained about the cause of the crash, health problems among citizens and rescue workers, the exact cargo, depleted uranium counterweights and other issues. More than 800 residents and rescue workers were reported after the crash to be complaining of a range of problems, including fatigue, skin complaints, joint and bone pains, kidney ailments and respiratory problems. The LAKA foundation in Holland (with whom CADU has strong links) made public the fact that the plane had been carrying 282 kg of DU counterweights.
Only 130 kg were recovered in the clear-up after the crash, and LAKA pointed out emphatically that the airborne oxidised uranium posed health risks. Paul Loewenstein, once technical director and vice-president of a company now called Starmet suppliers of DU to Boeing, produced an article which said "large pieces of uranium will oxidise rapidly and will sustain slow combustion when heated in air to temperatures of about 500 degrees Celsius." The health risks associated with this have been detailed in these pages before. Basing their evidence on NASA tests showing that the temperature of a fireball in a plane crash can reach 1,200 C, and the weather conditions on the day, LAKA suggested that DU could have spread in dust clouds from the crash.
In a press release issued on the day news of DU involvement in the crash was exposed, radiation experts claimed there was no risk to public health as the DU remained intact. A report by the local council also claimed that there was little risk.

However, since this time, LAKA have continued to fight their conclusions, producing more and more evidence to suggest that the DU did pose health concerns. The ongoing publications and rumours sparked a Parliamentarian Inquiry Commission into the disaster in 1998. During this it emerged that the Dutch Aviation Administration found DU weights on the third day after the crash but failed to inform rescue workers.
After repeated claims about DU burning, the Minister of Traffic announced new research on this matter. The outcome, largely based on US Army Research, confirmed the possibility of low temperature burning. Between 350 and 600 C DU will oxidise and be loosened as fine powder. Between 650 to 800 C the formed oxides mainly stuck to the weight, but a higher temperatures the counterweights would oxidise completely. This research is significant for the recent Stansted crash. The final conclusion of the Commission, which was far from satisfactory in LAKA's view, was: "based on existing scientific literature, research on the Bijlmer crash, its hearings, and own research that it is unlikely that big groups of citizens and rescue workers have contracted uranium poisoning" But "The Commission explicitly states that it cannot be excluded that in specific circumstances, some individuals have inhaled that much respirable uranium oxide particles that a contamination has taken place"

Taken from 'Uranium Pollution from the Amsterdam 1992 Plane Crash" an article by Henk Van der Keur, Laka Foundation in 'Depleted Uranium - A post war disaster for environment and health'

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From CADU News 3: Winter 1999/2000

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