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Iraqis at Risk of DU Contaminated Scrap Metal

Numerous eyewitness reports from respected sources have arrived saying that tanks and armoured vehicles hit by DU ammunition are being smelted down in Iraq. The contaminated metal is being recycled in a huge smelting facility near Basra, in southern Iraq, under the auspices of the British Army and being turned into prefabricated bridges, litter bins and even pots and pans according to the Independent Newspaper correspondent Robert Fisk. Children have also been reported collecting parts from the tanks to raise extra money for their families. This practice obviously puts Iraqis at risk both while collecting the metal and using any objects it is turned into.

Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor at the University of Sunderland and a Government Advisor on Gulf War illnesses says: “Taiwan springs to mind, where radioactive material was used in building structures and deaths and illnesses were so great, they had to be demolished. I would be very unhappy about using these materials, it would be a disaster for workers, a disaster for those living in the vicinity and it would be a real toxic brew also containing mercury, cadmium and numerous other lethal pollutants.”

If the UK and US militaries had cleaned up all risk areas and removed all destroyed vehicles this could have been avoided. The British Government claimed that it was putting up safety signs to keep locals away although observers in Iraq say this has often not been the case. Jo Wilding, who is currently in Iraq running a circus for Iraqi street children said, “There is a huge tank cemetery near Daura where all the burnt-out military hardware has been dumped, and there are children working there, cutting pieces off the tanks for a small amount of money, and there are no warnings at all. I asked one of the boys if he’d been told anything at all about the dangers, and he said some British journalists told him it might be dangerous, but he had no other source.”

In response to a Parliamentary question Adam Ingram, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, replied: “There is no known legitimate operational smelting plant in the Basra region. A small number of illegal mobile smelting plants used for smuggled copper and aluminium have been found and closed down. There is no evidence they had been used to smelt tanks. Military vehicles known to have been hit by DU munitions within the southern sector of Iraq controlled by the British military have been clearly marked. Arrangements are currently being negotiated with the US for a contractor to collect and store these military vehicles.

Read more articles about Depleted Uranium in Iraq

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003