The Royal Society Investigation - 'not so independent'
The new Royal Society team that has been given the mandate to carry out an "independent" investigation of the health risks and effects of DU is faced with a critical challenge. Robert Fisk and others have already questioned the team's purported independence, as well we might, considering that several scientists on the team have known links to the nuclear industry. The nuclear industry has a vested interest in downplaying the dangers of DU in order to expand the commercial and military market for "low-level" radioactive metals.
The Royal Society's primary challenge will be to carry out a truly scientific investigation. It should be based on material measurements, not just theory. It should not just re-hash the pro-nuclear literature, as the RAND report did. The main argument of the US DoD and UK MoD boils down to some version of "the radioactivity is too low to cause health consequences, therefore there are no health consequences." This assumption appears to be based on an outdated reliance on the questionable data on dose-effect relationships which has come out of the studies on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These people were suddenly exposed to large amounts of radionuclides; when scientists came to estimate the dose people had received, these measurements were restricted to external exposures. In the case of DU, we are dealing with long-term exposures to relatively low-levels of radionuclides which can be ingested and inhaled, and re-ingested and re-inhaled, over a period of time which is, essentially, eternity. Rather than rely unscientifically on previous literature which does not focus on the particular toxicology of the particular chemical forms found after the firing of DU on a battlefield, the Royal Society team needs to carry out primary research. Rather than trying to "allay the veterans' fears", as Chairman Brian Spratt said on Radio 4, the team should be working to test the urine of as many veterans and other exposed people as soon as possible. These measurements need to be repeated at intervals of six months, so that the real rate of elimination can be ascertained. Once this is known, it will be possible to work backwards to find out the estimated exposure based on real numbers, not guesses, useful as these may be for speculation's sake. These tests should not be performed simply for the sake of research, but to assist in the process of guaranteeing life-time full health care for all those exposed.
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Page last updated: January 28, 2003