Gulf uranium link denied

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ANY LINK between the use of depleted uranium in the Gulf War and illnesses suffered by veterans is "extremely unlikely", the Government said yesterday.

The Armed Forces minister, Doug Henderson, said research carried out by the Ministry of Defence discounted claims by veterans that they had been exposed to dangerous levels of depleted uranium (DU), the ultra-hard metal used to tip armour-piercing shells.

The report, commissioned last December, admitted that soldiers may have been exposed to DU dust inhaled from exploding shells, or have come into contact with Iraqi prisoners of war or casualties.

However, the report said worst-case exposure in the Gulf would have been "well below the very high exposure levels known to cause acute radiation health effects in humans".

It went on: "It is judged that any radiation effects from these possible exposures are extremely unlikely to be a contributory factor to the illnesses currently being experienced by some Gulf veterans."

Mr Henderson said: "I am not aware of any UK Gulf veteran who is suffering from a depleted uranium related illness."

But veterans groups last night condemned the report as a whitewash, claiming the MoD had not tested a single Gulf War veteran to establish any DU poisoning. Tests for the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association by Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Hari Sharma of Waterloo University in Canada have revealed that 14 of 40 soldiers tested show contamination by DU.

Shaun Rusling, chairman of the NGVFA, said: "The MoD have not tested for any DU poisoning on our veterans yet they rush out report in three months claiming there is no effect."