4th February 2001

Depleted Uranium Watch

DU Issue Management  

Piotr Bein, piotr.bein@imag.net

Vancouver, Canada

In a wave of PR shows, heads of states and ministers together with military brass with a “Dr.” title, accompanied by reporters, swarmed on Kosovo where UN scientists in nuclear protection apparel were carrying tests at sites contaminated with depleted uranium (DU). “No illness, no link to leukemia,” exclaimed NATO clones.

When it no longer could be concealed that leukemia was not the only illness on a rise among Balkan peacekeepers and civilians, NATO changed the tune to “no link to any cancer” even though no serious medical testing started. At the same time, sick Balkan veterans were pushed around, humiliated, and, when some of them died, bodies were hidden from independent autopsies and public scrutiny, while the military medical authorities were doctoring death certificates.

Parallels of the present process to “investigations” of the Gulf War syndrome by the US government are obvious. The government and “scientific” contractors conduct studies on DU that are designed to be inconclusive or divert attention from the risks posed to health by DU. The results of all this doctoring, cover-up and forgery can be seen at NATO website, another evidence against the criminal North Atlantic Pact. UN and World Health Organization (WHO) “reports” figure in the gallery of lies and half-truths.

News agencies reported today that WHO was planning a privately sponsored four-year study of the health effects of DU weapons, because there was not enough information to reach firm conclusions. “Like sponsor, like results,” goes a saying in research and academic circles. "Evidence on the incidence of cancers needs to be strengthened in communities within Iraq and the Balkans in order to draw any epidemiological conclusions," said Xavier Leus in charge of WHO emergency and humanitarian action department. "There is also very little information on other possible risk factors for civilians and the military that may be equally important. We need to examine possible connections between risk factors and health outcomes." The “other factor” is alive and well, only one year and a half after I predicted it.

Recent laboratory results from UN sampling of DU sites in Kosovo confirm the presence of uranium 236, plutonium and other highly radioactive elements, which come from reprocessed spent uranium. By the time the final UN report is published in March, the findings would be watered down and manipulated. A four-year, privately sponsored WHO study has even better odds of manipulation and cover-up.

 

The Fox Watches the Chickens

Washington had been saying since 1991 there is no link between DU and illnesses of the troops. Since the scandal broke out over DU use in Bosnia and Kosovo combat with cases of “leukemia” as suspected consequence, Pentagon consistently denied “Balkans syndrome”. Nevertheless, the alliance deemed it necessary to set up an ad hoc committee on January 10th to investigate the claims. The investigation was to involve epidemiological studies among troops of each country.

At a 26 January 26th, 2001, scientific conference organized by the Greek chapter of Doctors Without Borders, voices of experience and scientific authority insisted that we knew enough from physics to condemn DU munitions, and that more molecular biology more molecular biology was required instead of epidemiology.

NATO ad hoc committee was set up after several member countries reported a rash of cancer deaths among troops who served in the Balkans. Its mission: collect and exchange information on any possible health risks associated with use of DU rounds in Kosovo. No plans for molecular biology research were announced by the alliance that can by one push of a button release millions of dollars worth of bombs killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. The ad hoc committee comprises civilian and military experts from 19 NATO countries and from non-NATO nations that contributed troops to multi-national forces in the Balkans.

''To date, no nation has found evidence of an increase in incidence of illness among peacekeepers in the Balkans compared with the incidence of illness among armed forces not serving in the Balkans,'' said Daniel Speckhard, the panel's chairman. ''None of the nations reported finding a health link between health complaints of personnel employed in the Balkans and depleted uranium munitions […] Over a dozen nations have been testing soldiers serving or having returned from the Balkans, and “none have found any traces of depleted uranium,” said Speckhard.

The German and Dutch governments, whose KFOR troops served in the areas hardest hit by DU have ordered their soldiers not to eat anything from the surrounding countryside. Independent experts claimed that the dust has entered the food chain of the region. Dutch soldiers stationed last Fall around Prizren had to hand in all clothing and equipment, which was then shipped back to the Netherlands sealed in heavy-duty plastic. The government claimed asbestos contamination, but a Dutch military source points to DU. The vehicles, also sent back, ended up in a radiation decontamination plant.

NATO spokesman Mark Laity said the alliance itself was not conducting any investigation, though some member countries were. The ad hoc committee is compiling and sharing that information as it comes in, according to transcription of Laity’s statement by Associated Press writer Jeffrey Ulbrich from Brussels on January 24th, 2001.

Does it mean that incoming information to the committee would be censored before it goes to the media and other NATO members?

 

Take-out Science

Jeffrey Ulbrich’s report contains a  standard line in NATO-friendly dispatches: “Scientists say depleted uranium has about 40 percent of the radiation of natural uranium, which itself is not a health hazard.” Apart from a slight mistake that should be corrected to read “about 40% less of the radiation of natural uranium,” half-truth was said again. Natural uranium ore is not harmful, if it is left in the ground.

The residue uranium-238 left over after extraction of U-235 from the ore is very active with alpha radiation. In powder form it becomes “millions of times more dangerous than it was in the original uranium ore,” because it can get into the cells of the body with breath, food or water, according to Hans-Peter Schnelbõgl, one of the nuclear researchers who are not on NATO paycheque.

A flavour of military investigations of own crimes can be gleaned from a press dispatch of January 25th, 2001. The Spanish defence ministry revealed “partial results” of tests carried out on soldiers who had served in the Balkans. In two soldiers, concentrations of lead in the blood were shown at levels considered a health "risk" according to World Health Organization charts. The ministry did not give a word of other elements found. It would be easier this way to “show” that soldiers got sick from Kosovo lead leaking from Trepca mines (Associated Press January 15th, 2001) or from leaded gasoline used in stolen cars on Kosovo roads, not because of DU.

How much faith we should put into this “investigation” farce can be judged from previous performance of NATO countries, starting with the US and UK “testing” and “care” for their veterans from nuclear-toxic battlefields of the Persian Gulf. Veteran associations in both countries and Canadian veterans complain about cover-ups and total neglect. Testimonies of Gulf War DU- contaminated veterans, such as DU specialist Dr. Doug Rokke and military nurse Denise Nichols, are enough to discredit any government investigations.

Portuguese government refused to hand over the body of a soldier who died from leukemia. The defense ministry camouflaged the cause of Hugo Paulino’s death, citing "herpes of the brain”. His family was denied to commission a post-mortem examination. These denials became standard in NATO handling of the “DU controversy”.

If, as NATO claims, DU is not harmful, why did Pentagon warn their KFOR partners in Kosovo about DU? British peacekeepers were advised to wear protective suits, masks and gloves in DU-contaminated areas, or else stay 50 m away from objects shelled with DU ammunition. So were the Dutch troops. BBC News reported on August 18th, 1999, that humanitarian workers in Kosovo were warned about the DU danger, but not the local population. Between September 26 and 28, 1999, KFOR officers admitted to reporters that DU particles may have contaminated the soil around targets in Yugoslavia and may be hazardous if inhaled, particularly by children.

Why are American citizens demanding that their land and ground water be protected from the long-term effects of DU? Hysteria? If their fears are groundless, the US government should so educate both the Congress and the American public. Why would the US government be wasting billions of dollars to clean up DU sites in the United States that do not pose any risk?

 

Much Too Soon

In a DU cover-up saga continuing for decades, The Sunday Herald of 21st of January, 2001, reported that “most radiobiologists” dismiss the “suggestion” that soldiers exposed to DU in Kosovo in 1999 could already have developed leukemia as a result, “It was much too soon after the exposure for the disease to be diagnosed.”

Again, NATO mouthpieces announced the truth, but not the whole truth: It was too soon in 1999-2000 to diagnose blood cancer in KFOR soldiers after exposure in summer 1999 and later, but not too soon for SFOR soldiers who served earlier in Bosnia. The dead and dying of leukemia and other illness from Kosovo DU are the least resistant individuals who received the largest doses first in a row. The rest will follow, starting in earnest by Spring 2001, as specialists like Professor Günther predicted in an interview for Junge Welt a year in advance. And for sure DU is not reserved for peacekeepers and UN workers.

The managers of the present ad hoc medical inquiry make us wait, while many victims die in the meantime, for a proof that DU is as benign as baby powder. Hundreds of thousands of victims died of leukemia and other malignant disease since atom was dug up from the ground where aboriginals respectfully left it undisturbed in Mother Earth, and was used to produce energy and weapons. But this is off topic, hushed-up. There is supposedly no “proof” for health and environmental risks from a “controversial” contamination with made-in-the-USA DU ammunition that saves “soldiers lives” and restores “human rights” where they were denied by local Saddams or Slobos.

First were Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then 1950s and 1960s atmospheric tests with A-bombs. Maturing of the 20th century into nuclear age was highlighted with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, and, in the last decade, low-intensity nuclear wars in the Gulf and the Balkans. As if spreading low-level radioactivity around the globe from high-level nuclear accidents wasn’t enough, mortality and cancerous disease, including leukemia, was all the time “clustered”, as apologetic epidemiologists say, around uranium mines and processing plants.

Lawrence Morahan interviewed Glenn Bell, a nuclear industry worker sick of DU, for CNS News on February 1st, 2001. “A link eventually will be made between DU and the symptoms suffered by troops and civilians who were exposed to these materials," said Bell who distrusts studies that were conducted on DU, reflecting a suspicion of official agencies held by thousands of workers involved in the mining, processing and milling of uranium ore. "They sit on information a lot, and by 'they' I mean the government and the contractors. We as workers are saying there is no safe level of exposure," said Bell.

With a “much too soon” sweep, the documented Kosovo cases of leukemia and other illness caused by DU are brushed aside as fakes, soldiers and their private doctors are accused of forging medical tests and records, while Kosovo DU continues to pose to be as benign as the dirt in a flower pot in your living room. Go watch your football game on TV.

 

Radiation Kills Life

Sue Roff, a radiation researcher from the non-military Centre for Medical Education at the University of Dundee messed up the nicely arranged denials by NATO ad hoc medical experts. Roff dug up evidence that suggests the radiation-induced leukemia can develop surprisingly quickly. The first cases were discovered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1947 and 1948 […] after the US destroyed the cities with atomic bombs.

 "In studies of patients who have received radiation therapy, the period of greatest risk for developing leukemia has been reported as two to five years after exposure. I am aware of at least six men, most in their 20s, who were diagnosed with leukemia within five years of their participation in the UK nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s," Roff told the same Sunday Herald obviously in a discord with NATO ad hoc committee on DU.

"In Japan, leukemia was the first malignancy that appeared among the survivors and this fact triggered a major research study which is still in operation today,” explained Roff. "I would have thought that the appearance of leukemia among soldiers selected for their fitness for active duty would trigger similar studies as part of the government's duty of care." There we go again; over half a century after the first irradiation of humans, and hundreds of thousands of fatalities later – what is it that needs to be studied in connection with Kosovo DU? How much different is it from Basrah in Iraq or from Chernobyl? Radiation kills life. So do heavy metals. Period.

Dr. G. Rigatos, a cancer doctor, was more blunt. He said at the January 26th, 2001, conference in Athens that “no matter what the quantity, we know uranium may be carcinogenic.” Studies in 1902, 1921, 1931 and 1934 showed the relationship between radiation and cancer. The minister of health in the Ukraine reported an increase in leukaemia after Chernobyl. There is an increase in malignant neoplasmas in Iraqi patients, and 100,000 US soldiers are also ill, reminded Dr. Rigatos. “We are now seeing localized nuclear war,” he said.

For years, British Professors Malcolm Hooper and Dudley Goodhead, Canadian researcher of low-level radiation effects Dr. Rosalie Bertell, German expert on DU effects on health Professor Siegwart-Horst Günther, and many other scientists know that a local dose to lymph nodes and to other tissue from DU particles and other low-level radiation sources incorporated into the human body can cause genetic mutations and disease.

Dr. Theophilou, a nuclear physicist at the Democritus Institute, said at January 26th, 2001, scientific conference in Athens that alpha particles were extremely energetic and could damage nearby cells. Alpha particles have a charge of 4.5 million electron volts, but to change a molecule one needed only one-fourth of an electron volt. Erroneous copies of cells would be produced, which leads to cancers and leukaemias. If the alpha particle damaged the DNA, then erroneous copies would be produced forever in future offspring. With the addition of only one alpha particle, he said, the health of the individual was in a hostile environment.

 

NATO Kills Life

The anti-DU scientific reports and papers do not figure, however, on NATO website about DU use in Kosovo. Pseudo-scientists in NATO service typically manipulate the calculation of DU dose to prove that it is below any risk level. There are ample examples of this at the NATO site in the articles of: numerous “science” editors; professors of public affairs (sic) Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel; l. E. Schmidt and Ch. Wirz from NATO’s Swiss procurement agency; and, Dr. Michael Repacholi from the World Health Organization.

Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski of the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Poland and Dr. Roger Bate of Cambridge University made another apologetic contribution that does not hold water.

The NATO DU website does not mention, either, the multitude of government reports, many dating before the Gulf War, that clearly outline the risks of DU dust produced in combat and uranium mining and processing.

Credible and extensive data dating back to the development of the atomic bomb in 1943 contradict present statements by NATO about DU. The head of the Manhattan Project cautioned at the time that particles of uranium used in ammunition could cause permanent lung damage. In 1991, the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned that, if particles from merely 8 per cent of the DU used in the Gulf were inhaled, there could be half a million potential deaths.

If NATO Göbbelses believe in science by voting, why not count the voices at January 26th, 2001, scientific conference in Athens about DU health effects? Out of total 18 scientists and researchers, who addressed the DU issue, only four mimicked propaganda seen on NATO website. The rest were univocal about DU toxic and radioactive risks.

But if NATO website told the truth, then people would ask a question: “How is it that the Kosovo Albanians, whom NATO and KFOR supposedly rescued from “Milosevic” became the victims?  

(copyleft: reproduce and acknowledge the source)

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