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Greenwire, August 02, 1999

A British scientist says NATO's use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in the war over Kosovo could cause as many as 10,000 deaths from cancer (Alex Kirby, BBC online, July 30).

Roger Coghill, who runs his own research laboratory in Gwent, Wales, was speaking at a conference in London on the use of DU ordnance in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Depleted uranium is used because its extreme density helps bullets punch through armor and concrete. Military officials say DU ordnance poses no health danger. But critics say the radioactive metal becomes an airborne health hazard when shells detonate into clouds of dust.

Coghill: "One single particle of depleted uranium lodged in the lymph node can devastate the entire immune system" (John O'Callaghan, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, July 31). Based on US data, Coghill estimates that more than 500,000 DU rounds were used in the Kosovo war, creating enough radioactive particulate matter to cause 10,150 deaths from cancer.

And despite a UN team's recent statement that it had found no elevated levels of radiation in the war zone (Greenwire, July 28), Coghill said Greek scientists had reported in June that radiation levels rose above normal whenever the wind blew from the direction of Kosovo.

Coghill "accepts that doubts remain over the effects of DU," but he added that human, animal and cellular studies all "support the association" between DU weapons and health problems. He added his opinion that the use of DU weapons may also be linked to birth defects in Bosnia and "Gulf War Syndrome" among military personnel involved in the Gulf War (Kirby, BBC online).

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