Swiss tests support UN claims that depleted uranium poses little risk

The United Nations ordered tests in Kosovo to allay fears of radiation exposure to depleted uranium weapons Keystone Archive

Tests in Switzerland on depleted uranium munitions from Kosovo have backed up United Nations findings that the spent shells pose little danger to humans and animals.

This content was published on April 3, 2001 - 13:59

The Swiss federal weapons laboratory in the town of Spiez said on Tuesday that its tests had showed that radiation in the soil given off by spent depleted uranium (DU) shells in Kosovo was lower than that of naturally occurring uranium.

The laboratory examined 77 soil and munitions samples from seven different locations in Yugoslav province.

Minute traces of plutonium were also found in the munitions samples, but their concentration was too low to influence the toxicity of the shells, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Swiss defence ministry.

The scientists responsible for the tests believe the safety of the water supply in Kosovo is not threatened by the presence of spent DU shells. But they recommend checking the water periodically in areas where there are high concentrations of used weapons.

The Swiss laboratory, along with others, was commissioned by the UN Environmental Programme to conduct the tests. They were ordered amid fears that peacekeeping troops in Kosovo had been exposed to damaging radiation given off by DU weapons.

This exposure was thought to have caused leukaemia and other cancers among the soldiers.

In response to the scare, the federal authorities offered medical checks to all the Swiss soldiers who have served in the Balkans since 1996. The final results are yet to be announced.

swissinfo with agencies

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