Current Issues - Depleted Uranium Weapons in the Balkans
(last updated 1 Mar 2022)
Review finds no link between depleted uranium and cancer incidence in NATO forces deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo
"Background: A few cohort studies of the NATO peacekeepers in the Bosnia and Kosovo war reported inconclusive results on cancer risk. A systematic review and metanalysis of such studies might help to resolve the interpretative limitations.
Methods: Relevant publications were retrieved through a PubMed search and from the list of references of the selected reports. Five epidemiological studies, one each from Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, satisfied the selection criteria. Random and fixed effect estimators were calculated. Heterogeneity across studies was formally tested for all cancer outcomes.
Results: Incidence of all cancers was below the expectation, as was the case for lung cancer and cancer at most other organs. The incidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma exceeded expectation in the first years after deployment in the Italian cohort but not in the subsequent years of follow-up. The risk of colorectal cancer and bone cancer was increased in the Danish cohort, and so was the risk of leukaemia in the Swedish cohort. Bladder cancer cases were non significantly more than expected in the three Scandinavian studies. The Cochrane's Q-test was indicative of significant heterogeneity across studies for total cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, and leukaemia. The meta-estimate of risk of bladder cancer was increased two-fold (fixed effect summary [FES] = 2.16 (95% CI 1.35 - 2.97), based on three studies.
Discussion: Exposure to depleted uranium, metals, and ultrafine particles has been claimed as responsible for the cancer cases observed among peacekeepers. None of these would account for the excess of bladder cancer. The hypothesis of viral epidemics around the deployment area of the Italian military as contributing to the temporary excess of Hodgkin's Lymphoma cases would be worth exploring."
Cancer incidence among the NATO peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Kosovo: a systematic review and metanalysis, by P. Cocco, in: La Medicina del Lavoro 2022; 113, 1
Study finds no increase in general mortality or in cancer mortality of Italian veterans deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo
"[...] Mortality rates for the Balkan cohort (71 144 persons) were compared with those of the Italian general population as well as to those of a comparable and unselected control cohort of not deployed military personnel (114 269 persons). [...] The Balkan cohort experienced a mortality rates lower than both the general population (SMR = 0.56; 95% CI 0.51-0.62) and the control group (SMR = 0.88; 95% CI 0.79-0.97). Cancer mortality in the deployed cohort group was half of that from the general population mortality rates (SMR = 0.50; 95% CI 0.40-0.62) and slightly lower if compared with the control group cancer mortality rates (SMR = 0.95; 95% CI 0.77-1.18). [...]"
Mortality in Italian veterans deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, by Capocaccia R, Biselli R, Ruggeri R, et al., in: European Journal of Public Health, First published online: Dec. 3, 2015
ICBUW report assesses deficits with legacy management of depleted uranium weapons use in the Balkans
A Question of Responsibility - the legacy of depleted uranium use in the Balkans , by David Cullen, Doug Weir,
International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, Manchester, UK, September 2010
A report examining user transparency, the capacity of states to manage depleted uranium contamination and the development of health studies, seen through the experiences of Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo.
Study finds dramatic increase of uranium leaching rates from corroding DU penetrators after three years
Corrosion and leaching of depleted uranium (DU) was investigated for 3 years
using six DU munitions (145-264 g DU) each buried in a column with a soil core of
about 3.3 kg dry soil mass.
On average, 14.5 g corresponding to 7.9% of the initial DU mass was
corroded after 3 years, indicating an increased corrosion as compared to the
first year of observation. The leaching rates increased much stronger than the
corrosion rates by factors of more than 100, resulting in a mean total amount of
leached 238U of 13 mg as compared to 0.03 mg after the first year.
It is concluded that the dramatic increase of the leaching and its large temporal variability do not allow any extrapolation for the future. However, the high 238U concentrations observed in the seepage water highlight the need for further investigations on the transport of 238U through soil, in particular with regard to the potential future 238U contamination of groundwater in areas affected by DU weapons.
Long-term corrosion and leaching of depleted uranium (DU) in soil, by Schimmack W, Gerstmann, U, Schultz, W, Geipel G, in: Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, August 2007, Vol. 46 (No. 3), p. 221-227
> Download full text (NRC Acc. No. ML072690201)
> See also:
Leaching of depleted uranium in soil as determined by column experiments, by W. Schimmack, U. Gerstmann, U. Oeh, et al., in: Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, December 2005, Vol. 44 (No. 3), p. 183-191
> Download full text (NRC Acc. No. ML072690191)
GSF releases report on health hazards from depleted uranium ammunitions in the Balkans
The Institute of Radiation Protection at the GSF - National Research Center for Environment and Health in Neuherberg, Germany, released a report on its studies on health hazards from depleted uranium ammunitions in the Balkans. The report comprises:
- validating analyses of DU penetrator material
- investigations of environmental behaviour of DU material
- investigations on the bio-availability of DU material
- monitoring of DU excretion with potentially exposed persons
From the report's conclusions:
- Traces of contamination with U-236, Pu, Co-60, and Cs-137, could be identified in the penetrator material, but their contribution to radiation doses is negligible.
- DU contamination at target sites hit by DU ammunition was not widespread, but only very localised. Cleanup of spent DU penetrators is only recommended - if at all - for penetrators lying on the ground.
- DU penetrator dissolution tests performed in the laboratory with German soils showed considerable corrosion of the penetrators, but only very little leaching into groundwater.
- No case of DU excretion with urine could be found among the persons tested.
- The bioavailability of DU upon ingestion is 23% lower than reference data, leading to a dose coefficient for ingestion of 0.61 µSv per mg DU.
- The dissolution behaviour of DU in simulated lung fluid is between Type M and Type S, leading to an inhalation dose coefficient of 4.8 µSv/Bq U-238. There are, however, high elements of uncertainty with DU excretion with urine, and further research is recommended to determine the lung dissolution behaviour of DU for various exposure situations.
Untersuchungen zur Gesundheitsgefährdung durch Munition mit abgereichertem Uran (DU), U.Oeh, P.Roth, U.Gerstmann, W.Schimmack, W.Szymczak, V.Höllriegl, W.Li, P.Schramel, H.G. Paretzke, GSF-Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit , Institut für Strahlenschutz, GSF-Bericht 03/05, Neuherberg, Juli 2005, 137 S.
Environmental Behaviour and Bioavailability of Depleted Uranium (DU) Material, by U. Oeh, U. Gerstmann, W. Schimmack, W. Szymczak, W.B. Li, V. Höllriegl, P. Roth, H.G. Paretzke, in: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Health Effects of Incorporated Radionuclides Emphasis on Radium, Thorium, Uranium and their Daughter Products - HEIR 2004, GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Neuherberg, Germany, Nov 29 - Dec 1, 2004, U. Oeh, P. Roth, H.G. Paretzke (Editors), Institut für Strahlenschutz, GSF-Bericht 06/05, p. 179-188
> Download full proceedings (4M PDF)
Italian Senate approves committee of inquiry into causes of death and illnesses among Italian soldiers allegedly attributed to DU weapons
On Nov. 17, 2004, the Italian Senate cleared the way for a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the causes of deaths and severe illnesses among Italian soldiers participating in international missions, and into the possible use of depleted uranium weapons in domestic military practice.
> Download Proposal for Parliamentary Inquiry, July 20, 2004 (PDF - in Italian)
Court awards compensation to widow of Italian soldier who had served in the Balkans
A court in Rome has awarded Euro 500,000 in compensation to the widow of Stefano Melone, a soldier who had served as a helicopter pilot in Kosovo, among others, and who had died in 2001 at the age of 40 from a rare form of cancer. Melone had been diagnosed with malignant pleuro-pulmonary neoplasia (epitheloid haemangioendothelioma of the bone, the lung, and the pleura). Doctors had attributed the disease to radiation exposure.
(Der Standard, La Nazione, June 23, 2004)
> See also: Stefano Melone website
Study finds increased incidence of chromosomal aberrations in residents of a DU-contaminated site in Southern Serbia
The authors analyzed blood samples of residents from three locations in Southern Serbia that were target areas for DU ammunition in 1999: Bujanovac - Vranje, Kosovo - Strpce, and Pljackovica - Przar.
A statistically significant increased incidence of rogue cells and chromosomal aberrations was found in the blood of the residents of Vranje and Bujanovac.
|Rogue Cells Incidence
|Chromosomal Aberration Frequency
|Control Group (Central Serbia)
|Occupationally exposed workers
(avg. dose 7.9 mSv from X-rays)
Milacic S, Petrovic D, Jovicic D, et al: Examination of the health status of populations from depleted-uranium-contaminated regions; in: Environmental Research 2004, Vol. 95, No. 1 (May), p. 2-10
Study finds increased cancer rate in Swedish Balkans personnel, but no DU connection
The study cohort comprised 8750 men and 438 women, that is all Swedish military and rescue services personnel involved in UN missions in the Bosnia and Kosovo from 1989 to 1999. The overall cancer incidence (34 cases) was slightly higher than expected (28.1 cases). The highest incidence rate was observed for testicular cancer (8 observed vs. 4.3 expected) in military personnel, but only one of these cases was among the ammunition clearance group, which had the highest potential for DU contact. The study included no dose assessments, however.
An increased incidence rate of testicular cancer had already been reported in another study on Swedish military personnel, without a particular cause being known.
Gustavsson P, Talback M, Lundin A, et al.: Incidence of cancer among Swedish military and civil personnel involved in UN missions in the Balkans 1989-99, in: Occup Environ Med 2004, vol. 61, no. 2 (Feb.), p. 171-173
No widespread DU contamination found in the Balkan area with lichens as biomonitors
Abstract: "The contribution of the conflict of 1999 to the environmental levels of uranium in the Balkan area was evaluated by the means of lichens used as biomonitors. The average U concentration found in lichens in the present study was in line with the values reported for lichens from other countries and well below the levels found in lichens collected in areas with natural or anthropogenic sources of U. Measurement of isotopic ratios 235U/238U allowed to exclude the presence of depleted uranium. According to these results, we could not detect widespread contamination by depleted uranium in the Balkan area."
S. Loppi, F. Riccobono, Z. H. Zhang, et al.: Lichens as biomonitors of uranium in the Balkan area, in: Environmental Pollution 2003, Vol. 125, No. 2, p. 277-280
Commission has no explanation for excess incidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma among Italian Balkans' soldiers
The Mandelli commission has no explanation for the excess of cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma among the soldiers engaged in missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. The commission found no correlation between the tumors observed and depleted uranium.
(Swissinfo July 9, 2002)
Commission confirms excess incidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma among Italian Balkans' soldiers
The Mandelli commission has confirmed that there is a statistically significant excess of cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma among the soldiers engaged in missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. While 5.08 cases were expected based on the Italian tumor registries, 12 cases have been observed.
For the solid tumors considered in total, however, the number of 22 observed cases was inferior to that of 74.28 expected.
These results were presented in the third communication of the commission that had been instituted by the Italian Defense Ministry and is headed by Prof. Franco Mandelli (Director of the hematology section, Department of Human Biopathology, University "La Sapienza", Rome).
(Il Messaggero, CNN Italia June 14, 2002)
Higher incidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma among Italian Balkans troops confirmed, research into causes ongoing
"Hodgkin's lymphoma is more widespread among the Italian soldiers who were in the Balkans than in the national population and even more than in soldiers from other countries who were in the same area," Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino told reporters on May 7, 2002.
A link between depleted uranium and Hodgkin's disease could be biologically proven by the end of the year, according to researchers at Modena's Policlinico Hospital in Italy. Appointed by the Ministry of Defence, researchers led by Dr. Giuseppe Torelli have started a study on 16 Italian soldiers who developed Hodgkin's lymphoma after returning from the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Kosovo.
(Reuters May 9, 2002)
Norwegian study finds no health damage to soldiers from depleted uranium ammunition
A study of Norwegian peacekeepers that was released on May 2, 2002, indicated that exposure to depleted uranium ammunition had not increased their risk of cancer.
The Norwegian Supreme Defense Command offered health checks for former peacekeepers in January 2001. It also asked nearly 20,000 veterans who had served as peacekeepers between 1990 and 2001 to fill out comprehensive questionnaires about their health. Roughly 80 percent responded.
In line with other groups that have studied the issue, the command said it found nothing to indicate that Norwegian peacekeepers who had served aboard were at greater risk of cancer than other soldiers.
The study will form the basis of a new national register the military intends to use for a long-term follow up of soldiers' health.
(AP May 2, 2002)
Italian TV report claims DU caused deformities in children of soldiers
A report aired by the Italian government-owned TV station RaiNews24 on April 27, 2002, linked seven observed cases of deformities with children of soldiers who served in the Balkans to the alleged exposure of these soldiers to depleted uranium.
> View TV clip (20:46 min in Italian, Windows Media player format)
After the airing of the program, RaiNews24 reported another 16 deformed children, among them 11 from civilians who worked near military facilities.
U.S. DOD releases summary report on DU impacts in the Balkans
The "Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness, and Military Deployments" (U.S. Department of Defense) published a summary of reports from countries and international organizations performing environmental assessments in the Balkans and medical surveillance on Balkan veterans.
> View report: Depleted Uranium Environmental and Medical Surveillance in the Balkans
Concerns about leukemias with soldiers who served in the Balkans
European governments are concerned about a series of leukemia cases among their soldiers who served in the Balkans: Six Italian soldiers, who all served in the Balkans, died of leukemia. The Netherlands reported that two soldiers who served in Kosovo and Bosnia had died from leukemia. Four French Balkan veterans contracted leukemia. (Reuters Jan 4, 2001)
A Czech helicopter pilot had died from leukemia already one year ago after having served in Bosnia. (Mlada Fronta Dnes Jan. 4, 2001)
A German soldier has contracted leukemia, but he served at Mostar (Bosnia) in 1997, where no DU had been spent (Bild Jan. 6, 2001). The German Defense Ministry said there was no evidence that he was sick because of the depleted uranium. Still, the
ministry will investigate further. The ministry said given that 50,000 soldiers had served in the Balkans, there was a statistical chance of six or seven soldiers
contracting leukemia, and that there was no evidence of more than the average number of illnesses. (AP Jan. 6, 2001)
One of four Portuguese soldiers whose illnesses are being investigated told private television station TVI that he was diagnosed with leukemia in October, about
a year after returning from the Balkans. (AP Jan. 6, 2001)
A Swiss soldier who served in Bosnia for several months in 1996 died of leukemia in 1998. (SDA Jan. 7, 2001)
> See also: Cancer Risk from Depleted Uranium Weapons in the Balkans
> Siehe auch: Infoblatt: Geschosse aus abgereichertem Uran (100k PDF in Deutsch - aktualisiert 28.1.2001)
Court of Appeal condemns Italian Defense Ministry for the death of a soldier in Bosnia mission in 1999
The Ministry of Defence was sentenced on appeal by the Court of Appeal of Rome for "concealment" for failing to protect adequately Salvatore Vacca, Army Corporal of the 151st regiment of the Sassari Brigade in mission in Bosnia in 1998 and 1999, who died at age 23 in September 1999 of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, after being exposed to depleted uranium munitions. The ministry will also have to pay the parents of Vacca compensation of approximately 2 million euro.
(La Repubblica May 20, 2016)
Elevated chromosome aberrations found in employees of Hadzici tank repair facility
The mean of chromosome aberration frequencies in peripheral blood samples from 26 employees of the tank repair facility in Hadzici (target of NATO air strikes) was significantly higher than the frequencies for two other populations tested (exposed to potential genotoxins, and not exposed). Analysis did not reveal any relationship between the frequencies of chromosome aberrations and smoking habits or gender.
Chromosome aberrations as bioindicators of environmental genotoxicity, by Ibrulj S, Haveric S, Haveric A, in: Bosnian journal of basic medical sciences, November 2007; Vol.7, No.4, p.311-316
Detailed monitoring results published on traces of DU found in environmental samples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, no significant radiological risk found
In order to evaluate the impact of DU on the environment and population in Bosnia and Herzegovina, radiological surveys of DU in biological and water samples were carried out by the Italian Environmental Protection Agency (ANPA) during a UNEP field mission over the period of 12 - 24 October 2002. The samples were taken at sites attacked by A-10 planes using 30 mm DU ammunition in 1994 - 1995. In this paper, the uranium activity concentrations in the collected samples are reported in detail.
From a radiotoxicological point of view, at this moment, there is no significant radiological risk related to these investigated sites in terms of possible DU contamination of water and/or plants.
- The uranium isotopic concentrations in biological samples, mainly lichens, mosses and barks, were found to be in the range of 0.27 - 35.7 Bq/kg (0.022 - 2.9 mg/kg) for U-238, 0.24 - 16.8 Bq/kg for U-234, and 0.02 - 1.11 Bq/kg for U-235, showing uranium levels to be higher than in the samples collected at the control site. Moreover, U-236 was detectable in some of the samples. The isotopic ratios of U-234/U-238 showed DU to be detectable in many biological samples at most sites examined, but in very low levels. The presence of DU in the biological samples was a result of DU contamination in air.
- The uranium concentrations in water samples were found to be in the range of 0.27 - 16.2 mBq/l (0.022 - 1.3 µg/l) for U-238, 0.41 - 15.6 mBq/l for U-234 and 0.012 - 0.695 mBq/l for U-235, and two water samples were observed to be DU positive; these values are much lower than those in mineral water found in central Italy and below the WHO guideline for public drinking water.
Concentration and characteristics of depleted uranium in biological and water samples collected in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Guogang Jia, Maria Belli, Umberto Sansone, et al., in: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity Vol. 89 (2006), No. 2, p. 172-187
Study finds no DU in urine of US soldiers deployed to postwar Bosnia
No depleted uranium was found in the urine of a cohort of 46 US soldiers (Task Force 1-151 Indiana National Guard) deployed to Bosnia during a 6 month-period in 2002. While the total uranium mean value showed a statistically significant increase from 1.369 ng/L (predeployment) to 2.617 ng/L (during deployment), and 3.651 ng/L (postdeployment), the total uranium concentration remained below the 7 ng/L mean for the general U.S. population. An isotopic analysis showed values consistent with natural uranium, and it is concluded that Bosnia uranium exposures most likely occured from natural sources of uranium in the environment.
Military deployment human exposure assessment: urine total and isotopic uranium sampling results, by May LM, Heller J, Kalinsky V, et al.; in: Journal of Toxicology and Environtal Health, Part A Vol. 67 (2004) No. 8-10 (Apr 23-May 28), p. 697-714
Study finds no significant postwar increase in the prevalence of congenital malformations in Mostar (West Herzegovina)
The study included all live-born and stillborn neonates of the year 1995 (immediately after the war) and of the year 2000 (5 years later) in the Maternity Ward of the Mostar University Hospital (West Herzegovina). There was no significant postwar increase observed in the prevalence of congenital malformations.
Incidence of Major Congenital Malformations in a Region of Bosnia and Herzegovina Allegedly Polluted with Depleted Uranium, by
Darinka Sumanovic-Glamuzina, Violeta Saraga-Karacic, Zeljko Roncevic, Aleksandar Milanov, Tomica Bozic, Milivoj Boranic; in: Croatian Medical Journal Vol. 44 (2003) No. 5 (October), p. 579-584
> View abstract · Download full text (PDF)
Low-level DU contamination found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNEP calls for precaution
"A new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) here today confirms for the first time that depleted uranium (DU) from weapons used in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995 has contaminated local supplies of drinking water at one site, and can still be found in dust particles suspended in the air.
The recorded contamination levels, however, are very low and do not present immediate radioactive or toxic risks for the environment or human health. [...]"
> View UNEP release Mar 25, 2003
> Download report Depleted Uranium in Bosnia and Herzegovina , Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, United Nations Environment Programme,
March 2003 (12MB PDF)
DU in ground water: At the site of the Hadzici tank repair facility, which had been hit by 1500 DU rounds in September 1995, traces of DU were found in water from two wells: 0.38 µg/L (14% DU in 2.697 µg/L total U) and 0.55 µg/L (73.4% DU in 0.752 µg/L total U). For comparison: the current WHO provisional guideline for uranium in drinking water is 9 µg/L, while the U.S. EPA drinking water standard is 30 µg/L (see Uranium Toxicity). In the latter sample, also the artificial uranium isotope U-236 was found at 18 pg/L (0.0024% of total U); this value is consistent with earlier measurements in Kosovo and Serbia of approx. 0.0028%. No DU was found in ground water samples taken at the other sites investigated.
DU in air: At two sites, the Hadzici tank repair facility (see above), and the Han Pijesak Artillery Storage and Barracks (hit by 2400 DU rounds in Sept. 1995), DU was detected in air samples. Total uranium concentrations found were in the range of 0.022 - 3.6 ng/m3, with DU percentages of 25 - 99%. For comparison: expected values of natural uranium concentrations in air are in the 0.008 - 0.8 ng/m3 range, and the U.S. NRC standard for occupational exposure corresponds to 29500 ng/m3 (see Uranium Toxicity). No DU was detected in air samples taken at distances of more than 100 meters from the sites.
UNEP Identifies DU risks in Bosnia-Herzegovina
A team of experts fielded by the United Nations Environment
Programme has investigated 15 sites in Bosnia-Herzegovina
(BiH) targeted with weapons containing depleted uranium (DU)
during the mid-1990s.
These measurements revealed
the presence of radioactive "hot spots" and pieces of DU
weapons at three sites - the Hadzici tank repair facility, the
Hadzici ammunition storage area and the Han Pijesak barracks.
> View UNEP release Nov. 11, 2002
UNEP investigation team probes DU impact sites in Bosnia
On Oct. 15, 2002, a United Nations team launched its first probe in Bosnia into the effects of depleted uranium on the environment, seven years after NATO bombed Bosnian Serb forces to halt their siege of Sarajevo.
Scientists from the U.N. Environment Program are to work with Bosnian experts to determine whether depleted uranium contaminated the soil, plants and water, as well as its effects on people's health, according to team chief Pekka Haavisto.
"The study will assess short-term and long-term effects ... and give recommendations on how to eliminate any possible danger," Haavisto said.
The 17-member international team is to complete the study, estimated to cost US$300,000, by March 2003. The funds are provided by Switzerland and Italy.
(AP Oct. 15, 2002)
> View UNEP release Oct. 14, 2002
UNEP investigating DU sites in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia
> see Serbia
No New Zealand soldiers ill from depleted uranium
A New Zealand Defence Force investigation has found it unlikely the health of personnel was put at risk by exposure to depleted uranium munitions in the Gulf and the Balkans. The risk was "negligible," Defence Minister Mark Burton said.
"In summary, based on the available information, the NZDF investigation has concluded that it is unlikely that any personnel were exposed to residue from expended DU munitions and that if any exposure had occurred it is unlikely to have presented a health risk," he said.
New Zealand personnel served in Bosnia for 18 months from late 1994 and three have served as military observers in Kosovo since Christmas 1999.
Mr Burton said there were gaps in knowledge about depleted uranium, particularly the long-term effects. A database would be maintained indefinitely and any present or former service personnel with health concerns would have access to full medical assistance.
(NZ Herald Jun 16, 2001)
Portuguese investigation team finds no radiation hazard in Bosnia
> see details
Italian experts find no elevated radiation in Bosnia
"Italian military experts said on Thursday they had found no increased radiation levels in areas where their country's peacekeeping troops were stationed in Bosnia following the 1992-95 war. "We have made screening of five places and the results were negative," Lieutenant Luca Napoli told reporters, adding that the tests would continue at another 24 locations, mostly barracks and guard posts. " (Reuters Feb. 1, 2001)
NATO releases map of depleted uranium munition use in Bosnia
On Jan. 24, 2001, NATO finally has made available the precise locations of possible depleted uranium ammunition use in Bosnia.
Table of grid co-ordinates ·
U.S. Department of Defense confirms Depleted Uranium use in Bosnia 1994/1995
In U.S.-led NATO air strikes against Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, about 10,800 rounds were fired around Sarajevo, Kenneth Bacon, chief spokesman for U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said. (AP Jan 4, 2001)
This figure had first been reported by Italian Defence Minister Sergio Mattarella on December 22, 2000. (AFP Dec. 22, 2000)
10,800 rounds at 271 g each contain a total of 2927 kg of depleted uranium.
For locations of DU use in Serbia, see Kosovo map
Serbian president endorses proposal to set up national laboratory to study health impacts of NATO bombings in 1999
The proposal of the Initiative set up to discover the truth about the consequences of the NATO bombing of Serbia has been supported by the president.
The Belgrade-based daily Večernje Novosti writes that it learned this, and adds that according to the plan of the Initiative, a national laboratory should be set up to examine the consequences NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia has had on humans and the environment. [...]
More than 100 experts from different fields have stood behind the Initiative [...].
These experts are asking the state to provide them with funds, which is a prerequisite for Serbia to examine, on its own and without the role of other countries, how the effects of depleted uranium ammunition have impacted human health, but also the pollution of land, air, and water, especially since NATO also bombed large chemical, energy and oil facilities.
Although the experts currently have no solid evidence to suggest that the bombing of these facilities has caused the increase in the number of cancer patients, sterility, and autoimmune diseases, they believe that all this is connected to the 1999 bombing.
(B92 Sep. 19, 2017)
Serbia cleared of depleted uranium
A Cabinet minister says Serbia has been cleared of depleted uranium left from NATO bombs dropped in 1999.
Ecology minister Sasa Dragin said that authorities have removed all the remnants of the bombs.
(AP Apr. 22, 2008)
Depleted uranium bullets recovered near Preševo in southern Serbia
A total of 161 depleted uranium bullets have been recovered in Reljan near Preševo in southern Serbia in the past nine weeks, local reports said on Dec. 11, 2006.
The cleanup operation at Reljan started on Oct. 1, 2006, said the reports, adding that 6.5 out of 12 hectares of contaminated grounds have been searched and cleared. A total of 2.4 cubic meters of contaminated soil has also been collected and removed.
The Serbian government has funded the cleanup operation of the Reljan site with 350,000 euros (some 450,000 U.S. dollars).
(Xinhua Dec. 12, 2006)
Cleanup of Borovac DU impact site in Southern Serbia completed
The clean-up of the radioactive pollutants has been completed at a major site in southern Serbia, the Serbian Environment Ministry said.
3,468 cubic meters of contaminated soil were removed from the Borovac site, located 280 kilometers south of Belgrade and hit by 44 depleted uranium shells.
(AP Dec. 13, 2005)
No DU found in soils of Vojvodina (Northern Serbia)
No traces of depleted uranium have been found by gamma-spectrometric analysis of 50 soil samples taken from the region of Vojvodina.
[Since the method used did not allow for an isotopic analysis of the U-238/U-235 ratio, only the disequilibrium within the long-lived members of the U-238 series was monitored; this is not necessarily a reliable indicator in soils, where geochemical processes can lead to disequilibria.]
Source: Radioactivity of the soil in Vojvodina (northern province of Serbia and Montenegro), by I. Bikit, J. Slivka, Lj. Conkic, M. Krmar, M. Veskovic, N. Zikic-Todorovic, E. Varga, S. Curcic, D. Mrdja, in: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 2004, Vol. 78, No. 1 (September), p. 11-19
No DU found in food from DU-contaminated areas of Southern Serbia
Food samples from the DU-contaminated Vranje area of Southern Serbia were analyzed by gammaspectrometry in 2001 - 2002. No depleted uranium was found.
Source: Food contamination in the region of Vranje, by
Lj. Javorina, G. Pantelic, I. Tanaskovic, M. Eremic-Savkovic, V. Vuletic, in: 11th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association - IRPA 11 , Madrid, Spain, 23-28 May 2004
No DU found in drinking water wells in DU-contaminated areas of Southern Serbia
20 samples from drinking water wells in DU-contaminated areas of Southern Serbia were analyzed by gammaspectrometry and measurement of alpha and beta activity in 2001 - 2002. For all samples, the activity concentrations of U-238 and U-235 remained below the detection limit. The authors conclude that the wells have not been contaminated yet by depleted uranium.
Source: Radioactivity of drinking waters from regions exposed to depleted uranium ammunition bombing, by I. Tanaskovic, G. Pantelic, V. Vuletic, Lj. Javorina, M. Eremic Savkovic, in: 11th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association - IRPA 11 , Madrid, Spain, 23-28 May 2004
Chromosome aberrations found in residents of DU-contaminated areas of Serbia - cause unclear
Chromosome aberrations were found in 6 of 29 persons tested who are living in the vicinity of areas contaminated from depleted uranium during the 1999 NATO attacks. Due to the small number of persons and the limited study methodology, DU could not be identified as the cause of these aberrations.
Source: Cytogenetic analysis chromosomal status of subjects from the regions in the vicinity of uranium-contaminated areas, by D. Jovicic, S. Milacic, R. Kovacevic, I. Petrovic, in: 11th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association - IRPA 11 , Madrid, Spain, 23-28 May 2004
Cleanup of Bratoselce DU impact site in southern Serbia completed
The clean-up of some 5,000 square meters of land in the village of Bratoselce near Bujanovac, contaminated by depleted uranium during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, was finished on Nov. 9, 2003.
During the clean-up, the team performing the task discovered around 100 kilograms of depleted uranium in the soil and stored some 2.5 tons of contaminated earth in the Vinca institute's facilities.
Serbian Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Andjelka Mihajlov said that Bratoselce is the first contaminated site in Serbia that has been cleaned up and added that the efficiency of the work was higher than 95 percent. She expressed the hope that the clean-up of the remaining three sites, Pljackovica, Reljan, and Borovac, will begin in 2004.
The Serbian government funded the project with 15 million dinars (US$ 260,000).
(Serbian Government Nov. 10, 2003)
Cleanup of DU impact sites in Southern Serbia going on
Serbian Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Andjelka Mihajlov said on Oct. 14, 2003, that results of the environmental radioactivity measurements in 2002 show that there was no increased radioactivity in Serbia that year. A risk of increased radioactivity was registered only in southern Serbia, in Bratoselce, Pljackovica, Borovac and Reljan, where the largest number of missiles with depleted uranium were fired during the NATO bombing.
Mihajlov also presented the results of the clean-up of Bratoselce from depleted uranium, which began on September 15, 2003, and is expected to be completed by the end of November 2003.
Mihajlov said that the other three locations in southern Serbia will be cleaned up during 2004.
(Serbian Government Oct. 14, 2003)
DU bullets recovered near Preševo in Southern Serbia
The remnants of more than 200 bullets made of depleted uranium, fired by NATO during the 1999 war in Kosovo, have been found in an area in southern Serbia, the environment minister, Andjelka Mihajlov, said. The bullets were found over the past days in an area near Preševo, about 280 kilometers (175 miles) southeast of Belgrade, after the government on September 12, 2003, commissioned nuclear and military experts to launch clean up efforts at four sites. Experts will begin cleaning up the other three sites next year.
(Kathimerini Sep 24, 2003)
UNEP releases study on Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro
> View UNEP release March 27, 2002
Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro , Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, UNEP, Geneva, March 2002, 200 p.
UNEP investigating DU sites in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia
After finishing in Kosovo, the UN team is to test four sites in Serbia and Montenegro, which were hit by depleted uranium shells during the same campaign.
The tests are due to be completed by November 5, 2001, and the full report is due to be presented in February 2002. Bosnia would also be tested. (Advertiser, Oct. 29, 2001)
> View UNEP DU assessment in Serbia and Montenegro
Plutonium found in DU penetrator spent in Southern Serbia
A team of the Physics Department of the University College Dublin has measured the plutonium concentration in a DU penetrator recovered from a May 1999 target area in southern Serbia. The concentration of 0.019 ppb Pu-239/240 is approx. three times the highest value reported from the few penetrators measured from Kosovo, but the radiological significance of this concentration still is negligible.
> View also revised Fact Sheet: Hazards from depleted uranium produced from reprocessed uranium (290k PDF)
Information from Vinca Institute on DU use in Southern Serbia
The mountain Plackovica near Vranje and three other areas in southern Serbia are contaminated by DU ammunition since the ending of the NATO bombings in summer 1999. The areas are located in the communities of Vranje, Presevo, and Bujanovac, and are closed to the public, nuclear scientist Radojko Pavlovic of the Belgrade Radiation Protection Institute Vinca said.
Parts of the contaminated areas have been decontaminated in intense efforts meanwhile. Many projectiles had entered the soil to depths of 1.5 to 2 meters and were only difficult to locate.
Srdjan Markovic, the director of the institue, said that nothing reliable could be said about any increase of cancer and leukemia incidence in Serbia, since epidemiological data were not available. But local clinics would have no knowledge of any increase. Radojko Pavlovic pointed out, however that latency periods of 3 to 4 years must be taken into consideration.
(Berliner Zeitung Jan. 5, 2001)
For locations of DU use in Montenegro, see Kosovo map
Results of cleanup at DU impact site in Montenegro
At the end of May 1999, NATO aircraft targeted Cape Arza on Lustica Peninsula in Montenegro. They fired 480 rounds, most of them containing depleted uranium (DU). A systematic survey and decontamination of Cape Arza was carried out in 2001 and 2002. An area of 45,000 m2 was surveyed, and DU contamination was found on 18,000 m2, with 486 contamination points.
Around an impact point of a uranium bullet, contamination on the ground surface is usually localized within an area of 30 to 50 cm in radius. Thanks to uranium dust that penetrators leave behind them in the ground, it unexpectedly was possible to trace them down to a depth of 100 cm. At locations with surface contamination only, caused by the spreading of minute parts and dust of DU penetrators upon collision with a neighbouring rock, surface contamination reached up to a few square meters.
In total, 242 whole DU penetrators and 49 fragments (75 kg of uranium) were found and disposed of safely. Approximately 7 tons of contaminated material (aluminium jackets, soil, pieces of rocks, dead leaves and needles) were also removed. The whole area is decontaminated below a level that is twice higher than the maximum value of the local natural background.
Source: Survey and Decontamination of Cape Arza, Targeted with Depleted Uranium Ammunition, by P. Vukotic, T. Andelic, R. Zekic, M. Kovacevic, S. Savic, in: 11th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association - IRPA 11 , Madrid, Spain, 23-28 May 2004
UNEP releases study on Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro
> see Serbia
UNEP investigating DU sites in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia
> see Serbia
Soil cleanup underway at DU impact site in Montenegro
On June 20, 2001, Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UNEP mission to Kosovo, reported during an expert meeting that cleaning of the DU impact site at Cape Arza on the Lustica peninsula in Montenegro is underway. During deep cleaning of the soil down to 90 cm, 77 penetrators have been recovered, so far.
Montenegro to begin decontamination of DU impact site
Montenegro will soon start decontamination of a site contaminated by uranium located on the peninsula of Lustica. This was announced by environmental minister Miodrag Gomilanovic. This were the only location in Montenegro hit by uranium ammunition in the NATO Kosovo War. The decontaminiation is to be completed before the start of the tourist season. The government has allocated around 330,000 Swiss Francs (US$ 200,000) for this purpose. (ZuerichExpress, Jan. 5, 2001)
Observed increase in haematological malignancies in Kosovo cannot be linked to depleted uranium munition use in Kosovo War, study
"To date, this pioneering study of HM [haematological malignancies] incidence analysis in Kosovo showed an increase by 3.19 cases/100,000 persons (82%) between the 20 years period of 1995-2015. The differences of HM incidence between pre and post war periods were higher in two regions with most DU rounds/km2 expended. Despite these findings, this does not lead us to conclusive findings on the existence of causal relationship between the use of DU during the war and the rise in incidence of HM in Kosovo."
Latifi-Pupovci H, Selmonaj M, Ahmetaj-Shala B, Dushi M, Grajqevci V: Incidence of haematological malignancies in Kosovo -- A post "uranium war" concern. PLoS ONE 15(5), May 4, 2020
Italian Court orders compensation of family of soldier who died from Hodgkin's disease after service in the Balkans
The Civil court of Cagliari has condemned the Italian Defense Ministry to compensate with 584,000 Euros the relatives of Valery Melis, a soldier from Sardinia who died in February 2004 from Hodgkin's disease at the age of 27, four years after returning from a mission in Kosovo. The court is convinced that the Hodgkin's disease was contracted by Valery Melis from exposure to potentially injurious chemical and physical agents during the military service in the Balkans.
(Corriere della Sera, Aug. 14, 2011)
Study finds no significant exposure to DU in German peacekeeping personnel and Kosovo/Southern Serbia residents
Following the end of the Kosovo conflict, in June 1999, a study was
instigated to evaluate whether there was a cause for concern of health
risk from depleted uranium (DU) to German peacekeeping personnel serving
in the Balkans. In addition, the investigations were extended to residents
of Kosovo and southern Serbia, who lived in areas where DU ammunitions
were deployed. In order to assess a possible DU intake, both the urinary
uranium excretion of volunteer residents and water samples were collected
and analysed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).
The measurements indicated no significant DU in any
of the urine samples provided, despite total uranium excretion being
relatively high in some cases. Measurements of ground and tap water
samples from regions where DU munitions were deployed did not show any
contamination with DU, except in one sample. It is concluded that both
peacekeeping personnel and residents serving or living in the Balkans,
respectively, were not exposed to significant amounts of DU.
Measurements of daily urinary uranium excretion in German peacekeeping personnel and residents of the Kosovo region to assess potential intakes of depleted uranium (DU), by Oeh U, Priest ND, Roth P, et al., in: Science of the Total Environment, Aug. 1, 2007, Vol. 381 (Issues 1-3), p.77-87. (electronic publication April 24, 2007).
Swedish soldiers after six months in Kosovo have lower uranium levels in urine than at beginning of service
A new Swedish Defense Research study showed 21 Swedish soldiers leaving Kosovo with lower levels of uranium in urine samples than when they arrived six months earlier. The study showed the soldiers leaving Kosovo had 90 percent lower levels of uranium than when they arrived. (AP Oct. 29, 2002)
Levels of uranium in urine from Swedish personnel that have been serving or will serve in the Swedish KFOR contingent. Part II. Follow-up. by Björn Sandström, FOI – Swedish Defence Research Agency, Umeå. Report no. FOI-R--0581--SE, 15 pages
Abstract: "In March 2001, about 200 of the personnel in the homebound Swedish battalion in Kosovo were tested for their content
of uranium in the urine. Surprisingly, their uranium levels were on the average much lower than those of the control
group, 6.9 ng/g creatinine vs 26.8 ng/g. The control group consisted of around 200 from the replacement battalion.
The aim of the current study was to follow up this previous study and determine if the uranium levels of the Kosovobound
personnel would decrease during their half-year duty in Kosovo.
In November 2001, shortly before their duty ended, 21 persons of those with high uranium levels initially were subjected
to a second round of 24-h urine sampling. The second sampling resulted in much lower uranium levels for all tested
persons. The uranium levels fell between 74 and 97 % during the half-year stay in Kosovo. On average, the decrease
was 90 % falling from 69 ng/g creatinine in March (in Sweden) to 6,7 ng/g in November (in Kosovo).
It was foreseen that drinking water could be the main source of uranium. Therefore, tap water at Almnäs, where the
replacement battalion stayed during the March sampling, was tested for uranium content. Furthermore, tap waters from
around ten of the biggest cities in Sweden were tested. Tap waters from some other parts of Sweden of relevance to the
study as well as mineral water from both Kosovo and Sweden, a popular brand of soda and three beer brands were also
included in this test.
The uranium content of the water samples was generally very low. Only a few tap waters, one Swedish mineral water
and one of the tested beers contained significantly more (up to 100 times more) uranium than the mineral water the
Swedish personnel were drinking in Kosovo. However, it would be necessary to consume around 10 liters per day of the
mineral water with the highest uranium content to approach the internationally recognized guidance value of 100 µSv for
the accepted equivalent annual dose from uranium in water.
The current study does not shred any light on which other main sources of uranium in Sweden there might exist. Finding those uranium
sources is a future challenge. "
> View FOI release Oct. 2002 (in Swedish)
> Download FOI report (212k PDF, in Swedish)
Addendum (Sep. 12, 2003):
The Carlsberg brewery has announced to close its brewery in Stockholm for the high uranium contents in its raw water. The water stems from the Ulriksdal source northwest of Stockholm and has "quite a high" concentration of uranium. The brewery will be relocated to Falkenberg (south of Gothenburg). (Hallands Nyheter Sep. 12, 2003)
In the FOI study, one (unidentified) beer brand had been found to have an elevated uranium concentration of 6.69 µg/L.
No depleted uranium found in Canadian Forces personnel who served in the Gulf War and in Kosovo
> see here
Swedish soldiers in Kosovo have lower uranium levels in urine than at home
Swedish Armed Services researchers tested a total of 400 Swedish soldiers -- 200 who had spent 6 months in Kosovo and 200 who were waiting to go to Kosovo but were never sent. Soldiers who had stayed in Sweden had four times the average level of uranium in their urine as soldiers who had just returned from Kosovo, according to a report released on August 7, 2001, from the Swedish Armed Forces . Despite the difference, none of the soldiers had unexpectedly high levels. Possible explanations for these results are the higher background radiation in nordic countries, such as Sweden, than in Mediterranean countries, and the use of bottled drinking water in Kosovo, mainly from Greece.
(Reuters August 8, 2001)
> View Swedish Armed Forces News Release Aug. 7, 2001 (in Swedish)
UK Ministry of Defence seeks comment on proposed protocols for DU survey in Kosovo
MOD staff performed an environmental reconnaissance visit to sites in Kosovo during the period 19-23 January 2001. It is the Ministry of Defence’s intention to carry out an enhanced environmental survey in summer 2001.
Proposed protocols for a survey in Kosovo, issued May 2001.
The closing date for comments is 20 July 2001.
Covering letter (PDF 70kB)
Environmental surveillance in Kosovo: DRPS report No 6/2001 (PDF 420kB)
Report of a Reconnaissance Visit to Develop an Enhanced Environmental Monitoring Programme in the British-led Sector in Kosovo (June 2001)
> See also: UK Ministry of Defense seeks comment on screening programme for DU health effects
No elevated cancer rate in Italian Balkans soldiers
An Italian panel has reached the same conclusion as European Union experts: there is no proven link between depleted uranium and cancer in soldiers. The Italians, however, on Monday recommended the continued monitoring of soldiers' health.
The incidence of cancers in soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo was lower than the normal incidence of such tumors in the overall population. However, the rate of Hodgkin's disease was higher than expected - nine instead of four cases - as well as that of acute lymphatic leukemia - two instead of the expected incidence of one.
But those findings were not statistically significant. (AP March 19, 2001)
UNEP releases final report on DU in Kosovo
No widespread ground contamination was found in the investigated areas. Therefore, the corresponding radiological and chemical risks are considered insignificant. However, concerns are raised about the risk of future DU contamination of groundwater and drinking water.
> View UNEP Press Release March 13, 2001
> Download final report: Depleted Uranium in Kosovo, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, 2001 (PDF)
> Download Report of the Swiss Members of UNEP-Team, 20 March 2001 (95k PDF) · German Version
European Commission Study Finds No DU-Cancer Link
On March 6, 2001, the European Commission received the opinion of the group of independent scientific experts, established according to Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty, on the possible radiological health effects of depleted uranium. On the basis of the information available to date, the experts have concluded that radiological exposure to depleted uranium could not result in a detectable effect on human health.
> View European Commission News Release March 6, 2001
> Download Opinion of the Group of Experts Established According to Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty - Depleted Uranium, 6th March, 2001 (140k PDF)
UNEP confirms plutonium found in DU ammunition
The existence of plutonium was confirmed by the two laboratories tasked with analysing the penetrators - the Swiss AC-Laboratory Spiez and the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI) . The traces of isotopes Pu-239/240 were found in four different penetrators (ammunition tips). The amount of plutonium in the penetrators varied from 0.8 to 12.87 Bq/kg. This corresponds to 0.35 to 5.6 parts per trillion (ppt = 10-12) by weight.
"The presence of these transuranic elements in the DU indicates that at least some of the material has been in nuclear reactors. However, the amount of plutonium found in the DU penetrators is very low and does not have any significant impact on their overall radioactivity."
> View UNEP release Feb. 16, 2001
Swiss laboratory finds scant plutonium traces in Balkans DU ammunition
The Swiss AC-Laboratorium Spiez has found only minute traces of plutonium in NATO depleted uranium weapons used by NATO-led forces in the Balkans, Swiss radio reported. ''It is already clear that only extremely small -- if any -- traces of plutonium were found in the shells and shell fragments that were checked, and these in no way pose a potential health risk, according to scientists,'' the radio reported. (Reuters Feb. 14, 2001)
The concentrations found were in the range of 0.4 to 1.3 parts per trillion. (Reuters Feb. 16, 2001)
A team of Portuguese scientists dispatched by the Portuguese Government has found no elevated radiation in Kosovo, neither with soldiers, nor in food, water, or air. There were no radiation hazard for soldiers nor the public. However, not all samples collected have been analyzed yet. (Reuters Feb. 6, 2001)
From the conclusion of the final report: "All the evidence collected in the course of this work suggests that there is a solid basis for the following statement: that there is no cause-effect relationship between the exposure to depleted uranium and the illnesses and deaths observed in the Portuguese military personnel who served in the Balkans."
> Download Final Report: Report of the Portuguese Scientific Mission to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina for assessment of radioactive contamination and of the radiological risk due to the use of depleted uranium ammunitions (April 17, 2001) (in English)
German institute finds no plutonium in Kosovo DU ammunition
The radiation protection institute of the GSF research center in Germany could not find any plutonium in a DU shell fired in Kosovo. The detection limit was 7 - 8 Millibecquerel of plutonium per gram of uranium. This corresponds to a concentration of 3.2 parts per trillion or 3.2 · 10-12 by weight. Natural concentrations of plutonium in uranium are in the range of 0.4 to 15 · 10-12. (GSF release Feb. 5, 2001 )
Czech investigation team finds no DU hazard for soldiers in Kosovo
An investigation team of chemicists of the Czech military medical academy at Hradec Kralove has not found any hazard from DU ammunition for the soldiers in Kosovo. All radiation measured was identified as natural source.
(Lidove Noviny, Feb. 1, 2001)
WHO finds no DU cancer link in Kosovo; further study requested
After a first visit to Kosovo, the World Health Organization sees no immediate link between depleted uranium ammunition use and cancer in the area. The need for deeper analysis was acknowledged, however. A more detailed study could take years, Xavier Leus of the study team said. WHO asked for $2 million to conduct such studies.
> View WHO release Feb. 1, 2001
> Download Report of the World Health Organization Depleted Uranium Mission to Kosovo, 22 to 31 January 2001 (12 March 2001, 123k PDF)
No uranium found in blood of French Balkans soldiers
No uranium traces have been found in the blood of 50 French soldiers who served in the Balkans and in Iraq. Among the soldiers tested are 6 who contracted malignant blood diseases. This was declared by French Minister of Defense Alain Richard on Jan. 25, 2001. (Kurier, Austria, Jan. 26, 2001)
On Jan. 24, 2001, NATO finally has made available the precise locations of possible depleted uranium ammunition use in Kosovo.
Table: "Data concerning the possible locations of depleted uranium ordnance expanded in Kosovo (grid co-ordinates)"
Map: Depleted Uranium Engagement Points 6 Apr 99 - 11 Jun 99, Map produced 18 Jan 01 (8 MB)
> See also UNEP's overview map of 112 targeted sites: view online map · download map as vector graphic (PDF)
WHO Team to Investigate Depleted Uranium and Other Toxic Substances in Kosovo
WHO news release Jan. 19, 2001
Concerns about uranium-236 detected in DU used in Kosovo
Scientists at the AC-Laboratorium Spiez (Switzerland) have detected traces of uranium-236 in DU ammunition samples found in Kosovo. Also UNEP confirmed that uranium-236 was found at a concentration of 0.0028% in DU penetrators, see Press Release, 16 January 2001
Since this is an indicator of use of uranium recycled from spent fuel, the question is raised, whether other nuclides from spent fuel, such as the transuranics plutonium and neptunium might also be present, and what this would mean for the health hazard from the DU.
On January 17, 2001, the German Minister of Defense sent an expert team of the GSF institute to Kosovo to probe the alleged plutonium contamination.
Belgian Ministry of Defense finds no DU in Kosovo soils
Gamma-spectrometric monitoring of 156 Kosovo soil samples from 52 locations has not indicated any DU contamination.
(Belgian Nuclear Control Authority )
Study finds no significant increase of uranium in urine of German soldiers in Kosovo
The study of GSF institute used ICP-MS to analyze urine samples collected from 121 German soldiers and 50 other persons before and during their service in the area.
The study found no significant increase of uranium in urine and assumes no hazard of DU incorporation for German members of the KFOR troops.
However, the urgent recommendation is made to advise the residents of the area about the chemical toxicity of uranium - in particular in regard of playing children.
A further recommendation is made to mark contaminated areas, prevent access, and clean-up the areas by persons instructed accordingly. And, it is recommended to monitor environmental samples in addition to the personal samples.
GSF press release of Jan. 12, 2001 (in German)
|German version of the study:
Untersuchungen zur Uranausscheidung im Urin
Überprüfung von Schutzmaßnahmen beim Deutschen Heereskontingent KFOR
Forschungsbericht im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung
P. Roth, E. Werner, H. G. Paretzke
GSF - Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit, Institut für
Strahlenschutz, Neuherberg, Januar 2001, GSF-Bericht 3/01, 31 S.
> download full text (German) (486k PDF in German)
|English version of the study:
A study of uranium excreted in urine
An assessment of protective measures taken by the German Army KFOR Contingent
Research report prepared by P. Roth, E. Werner, H.G. Paretzke for the Federal Ministry of Defense
GSF - National Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Radiation Protection, Neuherberg, January 2001, GSF Report 3/01, 36 p.
> download full text (English) (300k PDF)
UN in Kosovo takes steps to thwart possible ill effects of depleted uranium
> View UN release of Jan. 11, 2001
UNEP Assessment Team releases maps and photographs
> View UNEP press release Jan. 11, 2001
112 targeted sites: view online map · download map as vector graphic (PDF)
11 sites visited: site list · view online map · download map as vector graphic (PDF) ·
Sample Site infos
Head of UN Kosovo mission invites NGOs to study health risks of depleted uranium ammunition
[...] 'In addition to asking WHO for a team of experts to assess the situation, Dr. Kouchner said he would invite specialized non-governmental organizations to Kosovo to study of the health risks of depleted uranium. "I'm suggesting that an independent body, such as Friends of the Earth, should come and freely make their own exploration and investigation," he explained, noting that the idea had been endorsed by NATO Secretary General George Robertson.' [...]
> View UN release of Jan. 9, 2001
Portuguese Probe Kosovo Depleted Uranium Sites
"A scientific team from Portugal arrived in Kosovo Saturday to examine depleted uranium sites suspected of causing ''Balkan Syndrome'' illness among soldiers who have served in the province. A crew of four from the Department of Radioactivity Protection went immediately to the Klina area in western Kosovo with Portuguese peacekeepers who work in the region. There, the team checked the ground for radiation with Geiger counter-style machines and took soil samples in plastic bags. ''So far we have not found meaningful contamination, but the work is still far from the end,'' Fernando Carvalho, team leader, told Reuters Television." (Reuters Jan. 7, 2001)
WHO found no increase in leukemia incidence with Kosovo residents
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not found any increase in leukemia incidence in Kosovo after the 1999 war. Erik Shouten, director of the WHO mission in Kosovo said that the WHO had no information so far that would support the hypothesis that depleted uranium is somehow related to leukemia. His mission had inquired the university hospital in Pristina, to which all leukemia patients are transfered. There, no increase in leukemia incidence was observed since 1998.
On January 6, 2001, the UN administration of Kosovo released the preliminary figures: In 1997, 38 persons older than 15 years contracted leukemia; in 1998, the number was 45, in 1999 32, and in 2000 33. (AFP Jan. 6, 2001)
> download WHO release: No rise in leukaemia in Kosovo (8 January 2001) (Word 8 format)
> see also WHO Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet
Preliminary results from UNEP Assessment Team
The UNEP field mission visited 11 of the 112 sites that were identified
as being targeted by ordnance containing depleted uranium, including
five in the Italian sector (MNB (W)) and six in the German sector (MNB
> see also UNEP DU Missions
"Out of the 11 sites visited, the team found three sites with no signs
of higher radioactivity, nor any remnants of DU ammunition. At eight
sites, the team found either slightly higher amounts of Beta-radiation
immediately at or around the holes left by DU ammunition, or pieces and
remnants of ammunition, such as sabots and penetrators," said Pekka
Haavisto, chairman of the UNEP DU Assessment Team and former
Environment Minister of Finland.
"For the UNEP team it was surprising to find remnants of DU ammunition
just lying on the ground, one-and-a-half years after the conflict," Mr.
Haavisto noted. "Also, the ground directly beneath the DU ammunition
was slightly contaminated. For this reason, we paid special attention
to the risks that uranium toxicity might pose to the ground waters
around the sites." [...]
(UNEP press release Jan. 5, 2001 )
UNEP assessment team completes site visits
"Beginning their work on 5 November, the UNEP team visited 13 sites in
the western and southern parts of Kosovo where, according to
information supplied by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO),
DU ammunitions were used. At these sites, the scientists took radiation
activity measurements as well as samples of soil, water, vegetation and
cow's milk. The team also collected several DU ammunitions (penetrators
and sabots) used during the conflict and at these specific locations
slightly higher radioactivity than normal was measured.
Although the final conclusions of the scientific assessment can only be
made after obtaining the results from the laboratory analyses that will
now take place, the UNEP team considers that its preliminary findings
call for precautions to be taken when dealing with penetrators and
sabots found at the identified sites and also near other locations
where thsese ammunitions might be present." [...]
(UNEP press release Nov. 17, 2000 )
UNEP assessment team to visit depleted uranium sites in Kosovo
"The United Nations Environment Programme
is sending a team of experts to Kosovo to assess the impact of ordnance
containing depleted uranium (DU) used during last year's Balkans
conflict. The team will arrive in Kosovo on 6 November and spend two weeks
visiting up to six selected sites. It will measure radioactivity levels
and take soil and water samples to test for the heavy metals that
result when DU breaks down.
The aim of the assessment will be to determine whether the use of DU
during the conflict may result in health or environmental risks now or
in the future and to publish a report on the findings." [...] "The final report is expected to be available sometime in January or February 2001." [...]
(UNEP press release Nov. 3, 2000 )
Expert team advises UN to conduct field studies on DU use in Kosovo
"A team of scientific experts meeting in
Geneva has advised the United Nations and its partners to conduct field
studies of sites in Kosovo that were struck by ordnance containing
depleted uranium (DU) during last year's Balkans conflict. The UN
Balkan Task Force's Desk Assessment Group on Depleted Uranium based its
recommendation on new data supplied to the UN by the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO)."
(UNEP press release Sep 26, 2000 )
NATO confirms details of DU ammunition use in Kosovo
In a letter dated Feb 7, 2000, NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson confirmed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan the details of DU ammunition use in the 1999 Kosovo war:
"DU rounds were used whenever the A-10 engaged armour during Operation Allied Force. Therefore, it was used throughout Kosovo during approximately 100 missions. The GAU-8/A API round is designated PGU-13/B and uses a streamlined projectile housing a sub-calibre kinetic energy penetrator machined from DU, a non-critical by-product of the uranium refining process. The A10s used DU rounds as part of their standard load. A total of approximately 31,000 rounds of DU ammunition was used in operation Allied Force.
31,000 rounds at 271 g each contain a total of 8401 kg of depleted uranium.
The major focus of these operations was in an area west of the Pec-Dakovica-Prizren highway, in the area surrounding Klina, in the area around Prizren and in an area to the north of a line joining Suva Reka and Urosevac. However, many missions using DU also took place outside of these areas. At this moment it is impossible to state accurately every location where DU ammunition was used. Attached is a map providing the best available information as to the location of DU ammunition use."
> View more recent maps of DU ammunition use in Kosovo
> View UNEP news release March 21, 2000
> View GAU-8/A 30mm Ammunition (Alliant Techsystems Inc.)
UNEP releases theoretical assessment of impacts of DU ammunition use in Kosovo
In October 1999, UNEP's Balkans Task Force published a report on the possible impacts of depleted uranium ammunition use in Kosovo. The report contains theoretical assessments only, since the NATO at that time had not provided UNEP with any information related to DU use in Kosovo.
UNEP/UNCHS Balkans Task Force (BTF): The potential effects on human health and the environment arising from possible use of depleted uranium during the 1999 Kosovo conflict. A preliminary assessment. 76 p., Geneva, October 1999
> Download full text (589k, PDF format)
(see also: Radiation Exposure from Depleted Uranium Weapons)
U.S. DOD acknowledges DU ammunition use in Kosovo
On May 3, 1999, Major General Charles Wald, who is the Joint Chiefs vice director for strategic plans and policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, for the first time had acknowledged that 30mm depleted uranium rounds were being fired by A-10 aircraft against Yugoslav forces.
> View DOD News Briefing May 3, 1999
> Pentagon Official: Bullets With Uranium Used in Yugoslavia (ABC News May 4, 1999)