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Leading Radiation Scientist Speaks Out On Government Scientists Downplaying DU Risks

Dr Keith Baverstock the World Health Organisation's senior radiation adviser in Europe spoke out at a conference on low level radiation in Edinburgh, about the pressures to ignore the dangers posed by radioactivity. Using examples of compensation to veterans of nuclear tests and DU weapons he argued that by downplaying the risks from radiation, government agencies had undermined public trust in science and technology.

As reported in CADU News 17 Dr Baverstock wrote a paper while at the WHO on the cancer risk posed by DU weapons which was suppressed. In Edinburgh he explained that he outlined in the paper possible mechanisms by which DU posed a cancer risk that were ignored by the International Committee on Radiation Protection (ICRP), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Authority.

He argued that insoluble DU retained in the lung over a long period can cause 'genotoxicity', through a combination of its radioactive and chemical properties. The uranium binds to DNA and proteins and is slowly transferred from the lung tissue to the blood, from where it can move around the body, particularly to the bones, before finally being excreted to the kidney. Another potential cancer risk is from the 'bystander' effect, which shows that irradiated cells pass on damage to surrounding healthy cells.

"When the WHO were advised of these potential mechanisms they ignored the information in the preparation of a Monograph on the health effects of DU published in 2001 and subsequently suppressed the publication of a paper postulating these three mechanisms." Baverstock argued. "In an ideal world the WHO would have alerted the IAEA and ICRP to the potential hazard of DU oxide dusts in Iraq."

His paper is now available online at or is available in paper format from the CADU office.

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003