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UNEP Report on DU in the Balkans

The United Nations Environment Programme also released the second part of its study into the effects of DU use in the Balkans with "Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment in the federal Republic of Yugoslavia". The first report on Depleted Uranium in Kosovo in 2001 was strongly criticised by Dr Chris Busby in the European Parliament for having incorrect data and an analysis of the results that was either "biased or badly interpreted".
The second UNEP report has new evidence of the far ranging and long lasting contamination caused by the use of DU munitions. It found that of the six sites it examined over two years after the end of the conflict "widespread DU contamination" was present at five, in soil samples taken. As the report states, "This indicates that during the conflict, DU dust was widely dispersed into the environment following the explosion of DU rounds". With unexploded munitions the team found "the penetrators recovered by the UNEP team had decreased in mass by 10-15 % due to corrosion. This has important implications for decontamination approaches as well as for future risks of groundwater contamination and monitoring needs." Airborne DU particles were also detected at two of the six sites measured, which "highlights important risks associated with soil disturbance at DU sites. As a result, necessary precautions should be taken during decontamination or construction works at DU sites." Moreover "while the Cape Arza site in Montenegro had undergone comprehensive decontamination involving the removal of two tons of rock, soil and humus, low-level contamination could still be detected by the UNEP team. This result shows that complete site decontamination is very difficult to achieve when funds are a limiting factor."
One would think that taken together these findings would constitute a very good case to indicate the inhumane and unacceptable risks that DU poses to civilian populations and future generations, and yet again we see that the report concludes that "the findings of this study in Serbia and Montenegro are consistent with the findings of UNEP's DU study in Kosovo (2001). No alarming levels of DU contamination were detected". Again we have to ask how high do the risks have to be to be considered too high? How much radiological and toxic pollution is too much? Journalist Robert James Parsons has noted of the report that:
"Only six sites were visited, and all of them had been already cleaned up by the Yugoslav federal authorities before the visits.

The standards used for assessing contamination danger were those of the World Health Organization and International Commission for Radiological Protection, which are based on norms built on studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb blast victims (one-event, external radiation), revised over the years. When pressed on the inappropriateness of these norms for measuring internal radiation, they admitted that this was so, saying that they had been more or less constrained to keep to the WHO standards. Nonetheless, he also admitted that the real danger was from inhalation of air-borne particles.
A report submitted to the team by the Montenegrin government about chromosome problems among people working on the DU clean-up sites was referred to the WHO, whose Dr Repacholi claimed that there was not enough evidence to draw firm conclusions, without, of course, proposing a proper epidemiological study to settle the matter."
The second UNEP Balkans study is at:
CADU is compiling a full response to the UNEP report which will be available at our website shortly. To see Chris Busby's response to the initial report, look at the Low Level Radiation Campaign website;

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From CADU News 10: Spring 2002

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