Veterans of British nuclear tests to undergo DNA tests

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The Independent Online

Retired New Zealand servicemen exposed to the effects of British nuclear tests in the 1950s will have their DNA examined for possible damage caused by the blasts, a veterans' group said on Tuesday.

The study will check the DNA of 50 test veterans for possible links between the bomb blasts and the poor health suffered by many of the now­retired servicemen, Nuclear Test Veterans' Association chairman Roy Sefton said. The veterans worked on the tests or took part in exercises to determine the effect of fallout on humans or equipment.

"This is a hands­on, clinical, definitive approach, completely individualized," Sefton said. He added he had not expected to see such extensive testing "in my lifetime."

Sefton said the project's importance was that the results would be specific to the individual. Broader, statistics­based New Zealand studies have been inconclusive about the health effects of the nuclear tests, which were carried out by Britain on Australian territory.

Sefton said though the study could add weight to veterans' demands for compensation from the British government, that was not its purpose.

The aim was to gain more definitive information about possible genetic damage to test veterans generally, he said.

The research, led by Dr. Al Rowlands of Massey University's Institute of Molecular Biosciences, will use 100 subjects; 50 test veterans and 50 people who will form a control group. The subjects will provide blood and saliva samples.