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Research into depleted uranium

The Government has announced a programme of new research into depleted uranium munitions.

Although extensive research already carried out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and organisations such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation had all indicated that the health risks associated with DU munitions were minimal except for a small number of exceptional circumstances, there were nevertheless some areas where further research was desirable.

Much of the new work will be in line with the recommendations of the report on DU munitions issued by the Royal Society.

It includes an epidemiological study to identify any links between exposure to DU and ill health and a study of the ways in which DU is transported from its introduction into the environment to the point at which it has the potential to affect the health of plant, animal or human life.

The MoD has already begun research into the rates at which DU corrodes in a range of environments on land and in the sea.

It has also set up the independent Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, which includes members of the scientific community and veterans' representative as well as MoD staff.

It is now overseeing the development of a valid test for uranium isotopes in urine and the methodology for a voluntary DU screening programme for Balkans and Gulf veterans.

Veterans' Affairs Minister, Lewis Moonie said:

"Although we do not believe that any British personnel have had high exposures to DU, we have always recognised that under extreme conditions it could present a risk to health, This new research, together with the work we are already doing, will help to improve our understanding of these issues."

"Anyone who has been exposed to DU and is concerned, should come forward for the voluntary DU screening programme which we aim to introduce later this year."

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