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News Release


Release No: 552-01
October 30, 2001


The Department of Defense released today an information paper, "Depleted Uranium Environmental and Medical Surveillance in the Balkans," which summarizes medical and environmental assessments performed in the Balkans area by a number of countries. On the whole, these assessments have not found any connections between depleted uranium exposure in the Balkans and negative health effects. Most of the work assessed was done independently, by organizations outside the Defense Department. The information paper examines assessments performed by the United Kingdom Royal Society, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environmental Programme and others.

Investigators supporting the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, medical readiness and military deployments compiled and analzyed those reports and referenced them in the new information paper. Most of the cited references are available in public libraries or on the Internet.

The special assistant's support staff is the same organization that previously investigated depleted uranium use in the Gulf War. Both tanks and aircraft employed depleted uranium ammunition in the Gulf War. However, all the depleted uranium used in the Balkans was in the form of 30-millimeter rounds fired from Air Force A-10 aircraft. About 10,000 rounds were fired in Bosnia and approximately 31,000 rounds were fired in Kosovo. That adds up to nearly 13 tons of depleted uranium, much less than the 320 tons of depleted uranium used during the Gulf War.

Concerns about possible health effects of depleted uranium in Europe were first raised by newspaper reports. Italian media reports initially tried to link an apparent rise in the incidence of leukemia in Balkan veterans to exposure to depleted uranium. After an extensive scientific study, the Italian government concluded that the incidence of leukemia was not as high in Balkan veterans as it was in the general population. Many other countries started medical screening programs for their Bosnia veterans. So far, none has reported elevated uranium levels in their soldiers' urine, or any negative health consequences they attribute to depleted uranium exposure.

Because depleted uranium is a heavy metal, it can be potentially harmful under certain circumstances. For that reason, the NATO nations have instituted training in the safety precautions to use in an area where depleted uranium was used militarily. Much of this training is based on the training programs created by the U.S. ARMY.

Information papers are reports of what the Defense Department knows today about military procedures and equipment. This information paper is intended to provide a basic understanding of depleted uranium use in the Balkans. Although not an investigative report, the report will be updated if additional information becomes available. This report is posted on the DeploymentLINK Web site at http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/du_balkans/index.html .

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