Scientists call for Iraq depleted uranium clean up

25 April 2003
The Royal Society, the UK's national science academy, on 24 April echoed calls by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for an investigation into the use of depleted uranium (DU) by coalition forces in Iraq to allow an effective clean-up operation. 'The coalition needs to make clear where and how much depleted uranium was used in the recent conflict with Iraq,' said Brian Spratt, chairman of the Royal Society's working group on DU. 'We need this information to identify civilians and soldiers who could be monitored for depleted uranium exposure and to begin a clear up of the environment.' The UNEP has called for the co-ordinates of sites where DU was used to be provided by the coalition, saying that: 'The intensive use of depleted uranium weapons has likely caused environmental contamination of as yet unknown levels or consequences.' While the US claims that numerous studies have failed to find any evidence that DU poses health risks, many people blame it for increased instances of cancers and other illnesses among those exposed to the substance. Because it can penetrate armoured vehicles, DU weapons provide a significant military advantage. The Royal Society fears that DU ammunition left in the ground could leech uranium into water supplies. The working group also warns that some soldiers could be at risk of kidney damage or lung cancer because of exposure. The UK government has pledged to help with the clean up of DU. A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman speaking to the BBC said that the coalition had no legal responsibility to do so. 'But morally, we do recognise an obligation, as we have in the past.' The spokeswoman said that the assistance would take the form of funding and of providing such information as was available on where DU was used.

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