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NZ investigation into DU gathers pace

17 January 2001 Media Statement

NZ investigation into DU gathers pace


The investigation into the possible risk to New Zealand personnel from exposure to expended depleted uranium munitions is proceeding with some urgency, the Minister of Defence Mark Burton said.

"The New Zealand Defence Force has sent 1270 questionnaires to current and former service men and women who were deployed in the Gulf and the Balkans."

Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Carey Adamson said that personnel records, medical databases, and a database set up following the Gulf War have been used to track those who had been deployed to the Gulf and the Balkans.

"A special task group has put in place a rigorous process to ensure we identify all NZDF personnel who may potentially have been exposed to debris from depleted uranium.

"The survey which covers 918 serving personnel and 352 who have left the service, will gather together information about the movements of individuals, to develop a database of those who may, in any way, have been potentially exposed.

"We will utilise the close contact established with medical experts in Europe and the United States to determine the most appropriate protocol for a medical assessment, suitable for identifying the presence of residue from expended depleted uranium munitions."

Air Marshal Adamson said New Zealand had negotiated the opportunity to participate in a NATO working group, which has been established as a clearinghouse for the exchange of information on the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans.

Mark Burton said NATO has welcomed our potential participation. "This will ensure we receive the latest official information from Europe, as we continue our own investigation into exposure for New Zealanders who served in the Gulf and the Balkans."

Results of the NZDF investigation are not expected till next month.

"In the meantime," Mark Burton said, "I want to emphasise the importance of any defence personnel or veterans making full use of their entitlement to seek assistance through defence medical services, or in the case of veterans, through the Office of Veterans' Affairs, for any health or injury concerns which they believe may result from military service."

ENDS

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