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NATO on Tests for Contamination with Depleted Uranium in Kosovo

NATO on Tests for Contamination with Depleted Uranium in Kosovo

Results of recent examinations of German Foreign Office Staff for contamination with depleted uranium in Kosovo show no indication of exposure. Source: Washington File (EUR118), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., September 24, 2001.

"Medical tests for radioactive contamination in Kosovo showed no indication that [German] Federal Foreign Office employees have been exposed to depleted weapons-grade uranium. A health hazard can be ruled out."

So stated a report prepared for the AD HOC Committee on Depleted Uranium and released by NATO September 17.

The findings were based on urine samples taken this January from Germans working in Pristina, Kosovo, and analyzed in Munich. Tap water and mineral water was also analyzed.

The report also concluded that "it is not necessary to extend the tests to staff currently or formerly posted to Bosnia and Herzegovina, since no exposure is to be assumed for staff in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the negative results in Kosovo. A proportionally much higher number of weapons containing uranium have been deployed in Kosovo."

Following is the text: (begin text)

NATO Information (AD HOC Committee on Depleted Uranium (AHCDU), September 17, 2001)

Report by the Health Service on examining Federal Foreign Office staff for contamination with depleted weapons-grade uranium in Kosovo

Summary:

Medical tests for radioactive contamination in Kosovo showed no indication that Federal Foreign Office employees have been exposed to depleted weapons-grade uranium. A health hazard can be ruled out. The report analyzes the results of the tests and provides recommendations for occupational and radiation medical care for personnel seconded to Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Background:

Since December last year, the public in Europe has been more frequently discussing potential health risks caused by the use of munitions containing depleted uranium in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federal Foreign Office Health Service informed and advised the employees concerned about all issues relating to occupational and radiation medicine. For health care reasons and to gain more factual information, the Federal Foreign Office has also provided a "biomonitoring" service. Measuring uranium excretion levels should determine whether accidental exposure to depleted uranium had occurred. The group of people examined is described in the Federal Foreign Minister's paper, reference no. 101-1-(SV Pristina) of 12 January 2001.

From 11 to 16 January 2001, a doctor from the Health Service (H.J.) visited Pristina where she examined and advised around 60 persons from the German Liaison Office, OSCE and UNMIK. 41 urine samples and 2 water samples (tap water from the German Liason Office in Pristina and mineral water) were taken to Munich to be analyzed in the Research Centre for the Environment and Health by Dr. P. Roth. The results are now available.

Results and discussion:

There are no normal levels for uranium excretions in humans, only regional reference levels, calculated according to age, reflecting the natural absorption of uranium from the environment. On a global scale, the reference levels for the Federal Republic of Germany used for these tests are extremely low.

Almost all levels found in the test persons from Pristina were within the narrow German margins of reference. Only 4 readings were above the limits; the maximum levels were found in one locally contracted member of staff in Pristina and in one seconded person who has spent an extended period of time in Kosovo.

On the basis of the water analyses, it may be assumed that the reference levels of natural uranium exposure in Kosovo are higher than in Germany. Therefore, the reference level taken by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) for persons not exposed to uranium has been used as a comparison. This is 500 nanogrammes of uranium excretion in 24 hours (ICRP publication, No. 23). In comparison to this reference level, all readings were relatively low.

It may be safely concluded from the readings that there is no health risk to any of the persons examined. The Health Service and external experts agree upon this point.

The data gives no indication that accidental exposure to depleted weapons-grade uranium could have occurred. This assessment is supported by the examination results from the Federal Armed Forces of their personnel in Kosovo and particularly by the recently published United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Recommendations:

Individual results for samples from members of staff no longer active in Kosovo are not yet available. However, the following recommendations can be derived from the results available:

1. Follow-up tests on the subjects of this study are not necessary because all readings are within the expected margins for persons not exposed to uranium. A health risk can be ruled out.

2. It is not necessary to extend the tests to staff currently or formerly posted to Bosnia and Herzegovina, since no exposure is to be assumed for staff in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the negative results in Kosovo. A proportionally much higher number of weapons containing uranium have been deployed in Kosovo. The results of tests for Bosnia and Herzegovina would hardly be conclusive in any case, since too much time has elapsed.

3. In a study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published on 13 March 2001, there were no indications of environmental pollution from depleted uranium in Kosovo presenting a health hazard. To ensure that there will also be no contamination of drinking water with depleted uranium in the future, UNEP recommends regularly monitoring the quality of drinking water in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our analysis of tap water from Pristina leads us to believe that there is a higher natural uranium concentration in drinking water in Kosovo than in Germany. Consequently, information from local health authorities and UNEP on the quality of drinking water is to be further evaluated and, if applicable, supplemented by our own readings.

4. The Health Service will inform the test persons of any results still outstanding. There will only be a new evaluation in the event of unexpected new findings.

(end text)

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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