23 Sep 04. MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR OF THE Times reported that thousands of Gulf War veterans suffering from a range of unexplained illnesses are to be offered a new test to check for any evidence of high quantities of depleted uranium in their bodies.
Four clinics are to provide the test, which has been developed over the past three years, in an attempt to answer one of the remaining mysteries from the 1991 conflict.
The possibility that radioactive dust from American and British shells with depleted uranium warheads that were fired against Iraqi forces in the 1991 war may have poisoned coalition troops has been one of many theories put forward by sick veterans.
However, previous tests and investigations had failed to provide any results which conclusively demonstrated a direct link between the illnesses and the radioactive residue from shells.
Part of the problem was that the existing testing systems were regarded as unreliable. In an attempt to meet the veterans’ complaints, the Ministry of Defence set up an independent committee of scientists, the depleted uranium oversight board, in 2001 to develop a screening process. The new test, which will be made available to 500 veterans a year, will be offered from today to military and civilian personnel who served in the Gulf area between August 1, 1990, and July 31, 1991, and also in Kosovo on or after August 5, 1994.
Depleted uranium shells were also used during the Nato campaign in Kosovo, and some areas of the former Yugoslav province were found to be contaminated. The breakthrough in testing is being announced by the MoD today. The four clinics which will be involved in the special programme will be at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Southmead Hospital in Bristol and the University of North Tees in Stockton. David Coggon, chairman of the oversight board, told The Times yesterday that the test would be able to find traces of depleted uranium in urine if the level were high enough to have caused ill-health.
Professor Coggon, head of the environmental epidemio- logy unit at Southampton General Hospital, said that previous had not differentiated accurately between depleted uranium in urine samples and uranium excreted naturally from people’s diet.
The new test, he said, would be sufficiently “sensitive and accurate” to uncover “tiny traces” of depleted uranium. Any troops affected on the battlefield would have inhaled uranium oxide dust, although a research project by the Royal Society concluded in 2001 that only a small number of soldiers could have faced high risk of contamination. Shaun Rusling, of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, which has more than 6,000 members suffering from a range of illnesses, including blood and skin diseases and osteoporosis, said that the new test was “too little and too late for those who took part in the 1991 war”.
Comment: Seasoned BATTLESPACE subscribers will remember the leader we ran in 1998 highlighting the possibility that DU was a possible cause of Gulf War Syndrome. We published the results of the US survey which pointed to the problem and repeated them in 1999 when the Conservatives attempted to resurrect the matter. Now it appears that the new tests, similar to those carried out in the US may bring the answer to the cause of Gulf War Syndrome