Thursday, August 17, 2006
Nuclear News - Cancers and Birth Defects - DU
-------- NUCLEAR-------- depleted uranium
Balkan Syndrome Resurrected
The UN releases a study that lends credence to health experts' cries that NATO's wartime uranium-tipped weapons have left behind a deadly, cancerous legacy.
by Anes Alic and Dragan Stanimirovic 10 December 2002
Transitions Online http://www.tol.cz/look/BRR/article_single.tplIdLanguage=1&IdPublication=9&NrIssue=1&NrSection=4&NrArticle=8027&ST1=body&ST_T1=brr&ST_AS1=1&ST_max=1SARAJEVO and BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina--
After two years of silence, Balkan Syndrome--better known as the depleted uranium affair--is getting its due attention. The United Nations Environmental Protection Agency (UNEP) in November confirmed the dangerous presence of depleted uranium in areas of Bosnia bombed by NATO aircraft in 1994 and 1995, which Bosnian officials say has led to a shocking increase in cancer-related deaths.UN experts confirmed the discovery of two locations containing a high level of radiation from depleted uranium from NATO bombings: the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici, where a munitions warehouse and a tank-repair facility are located, and a Bosnian Serb army barracks in Han-Pijesak, also near Sarajevo. Investigators discovered uranium materials and dust inside the buildings.
Balkan Syndrome Resurrected The UNEP task force says that depleted uranium can create an increase in uranium concentration 100 times the natural levels contained in groundwater.Upon the release of the November UN expert study on depleted uranium, health officials from Republika Srpska confirmed that uranium has indeed caused many civilian deaths in those two regions. Health officials say that civilian deaths in those regions are double what they are in other, unaffected regions.Earlier this year, the Bosnian government invited 17 international experts to investigate rumors that depleted uranium is still present in the environment and may be adversely affecting the health not only of the local population but also of international peacekeepers stationed in Bosnia.
The team of experts investigated 14 separate locations over a one-month period, finding traces of radiation in three places. Investigators were not able to examine eight other locations--four small towns near Sarajevo and four others in eastern Bosnia--deemed to be too risky due to the presence of land mines.Pekka Haavisto, who heads the UNEP task force, told the daily Oslobodjenje: "We are concerned about the situation at the Hadzici tank-repair facility and the Han-Pijesak barracks and the health condition of the citizens." Haavisto said that after being analyzed in Western European laboratories, the final results would be released in March 2003.
Recent years have brought growing concern among experts that shrapnel from depleted uranium-tipped weapons from could cause cancer or other radiation-related problems. According to health experts, dust particles from depleted uranium could be inhaled, or the substance could leach into the ground and the water supply.
During NATO's 1994 and 1995 bombings of Bosnian Serb positions around Sarajevo, NATO aircraft used munitions containing depleted uranium, a slightly radioactive heavy metal that is effective in piercing armor. Most of those bombs were fired in Hadzici. In one day in October 1995 alone, NATO planes fired 300 projectiles into the Sarajevo suburb. According to the Bosnian government, NATO forces fired some 10,800 rounds of 30mm armor-piercing projectiles during the war.Under the November 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, some Sarajevo suburbs held by Serbs during the war came under the control of the mostly Bosniak and Bosnian Croat federation entity of Bosnia. One of those suburbs was Hadzici. Most of the approximately 30,000 Bosnian Serbs who lived there fled their homes and moved as refugees to other parts of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and to Yugoslavia.
Some 5,000 civilians from Hadzici fled to Bratunac, in eastern Republika Srpska. Medical analysis conducted by the local Institute for Health in 1998 showed that the mortality of Hadzici refugees was double the mortality rate for the rest of Bratunac's residents. The study's author, Dr. Slavica Jovanovic, told the SRNA news agency that she has no doubt that depleted uranium is responsible for the increased death rate of those people."We can say that the mortality rate of the refugee population is greater because of high stress, poor nutrition, and bad living conditions. But we were shocked to discover that deaths among Hadzici's refugees are much more numerous than [among] other [refugees]," Jovanovic told SRNA.
She blamed those deaths on the fact that the refugees from Hadzici were exposed to radiation because they lived close to the bombed locations.In her report, Jovanovic wrote that since the end of the war, 25 percent of wartime Hadzici residents have died of various cancers, tumors, and heart attacks. In Bratunac alone in the last four years, 500 of the 5,000 Hadzici refugees have died. One Hadzici refugee dies every three to four days, and every second one dies from cancer.Jovanovic said that she could not say for sure how many Hadzici refugees have cancer because many do not check themselves into hospitals since they cannot afford medical treatment. The doctor said she is hoping that the international community will step in and find some way to examine the town's refugee population and help provide treatment.
After the UNEP report was released, the Republika Srpska army evacuated soldiers from its barracks in Han-Pijesak. Officials say that organized medical exams will soon begin for soldiers who were in the barracks during the past seven years.At the same time, medical workers from the federation entity are also sending out warnings to people still living in Hadzici--but they are expanding their warning to the general public, which they fear could also be affected by the presence of depleted uranium. Federation health officials say they are also worried that that radiation has caused an increase in the number of diseases such as cancers--especially leukemia--tumors, cerebral palsy, and others.
After the reintegration of Hadzici into the federation entity, prewar Bosniak and Croat workers began cleaning out the munitions warehouse and tank-repair facility, removing more than 1,000 truckloads of garbage and munitions. Now those workers fear they too have been contaminated. Unfortunately, they will have to wait to find out. Workers have begun undergoing medical examinations, but the results will not be available until April 2003. What's more, despite UNEP warnings to immediately evacuate all workers because of danger of inhaling depleted uranium dust, some workers from Hadzici are still on duty."Believe me, I am very afraid. But if I have been inhaling radiation for the past seven years, I can do it until they publish the final results," Zijad Fazlic, director of the Hadzici tank-repair facility, told TOL on November 24. "All we can do now is to wait for the results. I don't know what we are going to do, but if I had known this, I would never have come here to work. Families of workers also live here," he said.
Soon after the UNEP report was published, federation medical officials started to speculate that it is possible that depleted uranium is the cause for the shocking jump in cases of leukemia in children."It has not yet been proven, but we cannot see anything else except uranium," Edo Hasanbegovic, director of the ontological department in Sarajevo's Kosevo clinic, told the daily Oslobodjenje on 21 November.Hasanbegovic said that research is set to begin soon to find out whether a connection can be made between the increase in diseases and depleted uranium. But he said he is certain that depleted uranium is one of the elements that causes leukemia in Bosnia. "That we can claim without medical research. Every year we have a 50 percent to 70 percent increase in the number of new underage patients," said Hasanbegovic.
Lejla Saracevic, chief of radiobiology at Sarajevo University, told TOL on 29 November that before the depleted uranium affair was made known to the public, local experts had asked the government to allow them to conduct research in potentially contaminated areas. The government, however, refused, saying there was insufficient money in the budget for such research--research Saracevic said costs little.Saracevic said that once the most critical locations have been decontaminated, it is necessary to find out how much of the rest of the region is radioactive. "It has been a long time. In seven years the uranium has migrated into the ground and through the water. It is very possible that it now exists in our vegetation and possibly in our food. Our priority is to check that now," she said.
Before the war in Bosnia, the annual number of new cases of children with leukemia was never greater than 13. Since the end of the war, that number has grown every year: Last year it was 26. The situation is the same with other cancers: Every year the number grows. And almost 80 percent of those new cases are coming from areas that were exposed to the radiation of depleted uranium--areas that were bombed during the war.
The so-called Balkan Syndrome affair first aroused attention in early 2001, when Italian media published reports that one Italian soldier who had served in Bosnia had died of leukemia and that five more were very ill. The Italian media blamed the sicknesses on NATO's use of depleted uranium in its weapons.At the time, all governments denied that NATO was using uranium-tipped munitions. Nonetheless, medical examinations of soldiers were promptly begun, with many being diagnosed with leukemia and other forms of cancer.
Anes Alic is TOL's correspondent in Sarajevo. Dragan Stanimirovic is TOL's correspondent in Banja Luka.We want your feedback. If you have comments on this, or any other TOL article, please email us at email@example.com-------- inspections
Efforts should be made to coordinate similar cases of illnesses in Coalition Forces, including the Americans (Gulf War Syndrome and related illness), leukemias and cancers in Iraq, and the skyrocketing rate of birth defected babies among all.