UN report confirms depleted uranium from weapons found in Bosnia

25 March 2003

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) confirmed for the first time today that depleted uranium (DU) from weapons used in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995 had contaminated a local supply of drinking water, but while this did not present an immediate risk, the agency recommended regular monitoring.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) confirmed for the first time today that depleted uranium (DU) from weapons used in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995 had contaminated a local supply of drinking water, but while this did not present an immediate risk, the agency recommended regular monitoring.

“These newest findings from UNEP's ongoing post-conflict assessment work must not be seen as a cause for alarm," Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. "Nevertheless, we recommend that precautions be taken and, in particular, that ground and drinking water – at and near sites where the presence of DU has been confirmed – be monitored regularly."

The UNEP report released in Sarajevo says DU has contaminated local supplies of drinking water at one site, and can still be found in dust particles suspended in the air. But it notes that recorded contamination levels are very low and do not present immediate radioactive or toxic risks for the environment or human health.

The report's recommendations include covering contamination points with asphalt or clean soil and investigating all health claims. "The findings of this study stress again the importance of appropriate clean-up and civil protection measures in a post-conflict situation," Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of the UNEP DU projects said. "We hope that this work will play a role in protecting human health and the environment in the unfortunate event of future conflicts."

The findings are consistent with previous UNEP studies carried out in Kosovo in 2001 and in Serbia and Montenegro last year. The UNEP team included representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the health chapter of the report, WHO concludes that, due to the lack of a proper cancer registry and reporting system, claims of an increase in the rates of adverse health effects stemming from DU cannot be substantiated. The existing scientific data on uranium and DU health effects indicate that it is highly unlikely that DU could be associated with any of the reported health problems.

 

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