MoD Failed to
Inform Gulf Soldiers of DU Risks
In a written parliamentary reply,
the defence minister, John Spellar, admitted that a message warning
of the risks of depleted uranuim, and advising of precautions to take,
never reached the soldiers in the Gulf conflict in 1991.
Spellar said that officials had uncovered a message sent from the
MoD to First Armoured Division in Saudi Arabia on 25th February 1991
about the dangers associated with DU. A second message containing
advice on how to avoid breathing in DU particles did not reach the
soldiers, putting thousands at risk. Mr Spellar’s admission
is an embarrassment to the MoD, which is fighting claims by Gulf war
veterans that they were poisoned by depleted uranium during the war.
Veterans reacted angrily last night to the MoD statement. Shaun Rusling,
of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, said he did
not believe safety messages were ever sent to the Gulf.
I think the MoD statement is untrue and is designed to cover up their
failure to issue any warnings,” he said. “This is very
disturbing. I would like to see their documentation as we can prove
the MoD was fully aware of the dangers and yet did nothing to advise
The MoD statement came as new figures showed nearly 300 Gulf War veterans
have died in the last three years. In a parliamentary reply, Mr Spellar
said 278 Gulf war veterans have died since 1995. None of the dead
has been officially confirmed as a victim of Gulf War syndrome. Fifty
Stephen Childs, 47, who died of liver and pancreas cancer, was the
most recent Gulf War soldier to die. His doctor believes exposure
to DU while he recovered damaged vehicles caused his illness.
The MoD said last night that it regretted that its safety notice failed
to reach troops. But a spokesman insisted that there was no proof
that soldiers fell ill as a result of depleted uranium, which is used
to strengthen the tips of shells.
The spokesman said that the substance only posed a risk to Iraqi troops
when it vapourised after piercing armour. “We do not believe
it is a problem for British veterans, but we have offered them tests.
This has not been accepted.”
The veterans’ campaign received a boost earlier this year after
tests were carried out on the body of Terry Riordon, a Canadian military
policeman who died after suffering Gulf War syndrome. They found substances
linked to depleted uranium in his bone tissue.
From a report in the Guardian,