Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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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 troops.”

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 committed suicide.

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, 25/11/00

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From CADU News 6: Winter 2000/2001

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003