LETTER:Nuclear tests and Gulf War veterans

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From Ms Sue Rabbitt Rolfe

Sir: In her useful review of the decision of the MoD to launch an inquiry into the Gulf war syndrome, Rebecca Fowler ("The war that never ended", 31 January) notes that the same department has always "fiercely resisted" paying compensation to the victims of nuclear tests who were exposed to radiation, including the 22,000 British service personnel who attended the tests.

That refusal has been admitted to trial in the cases brought before the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg by two veterans who have suffered radiogenic illnesses, and the daughter of a veteran who attributes her acute myeloid leukaemia to her father's exposure.

In admitting these complaints to trial, the Commission commented that the interpretation of its studies of British veterans of atmospheric tests conducted by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) in 1985, in which it dismissed the finding that the levels of leukaemia and multiple myeloma in the veteran groups were three times higher than in the controls because of what it declared the extraordinarily low incidences in the control group, "would seem to undermine the very rationale of using a control group".

It also noted that the applicant questioned the suitability and independence of the NRPB to conduct the study, since all the information on which the study was conducted was supplied by the Ministry of Defence.

It is hoped that the studies of the Gulf war veterans do not repeat the same mistakes.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Rabbitt Roff

Centre for Medical Education

University of Dundee


2 February

The writer is the author of 'Hotspots: The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki' (Cassell 1995).