UN News Service

Friday, November 3, 2000

UN environment team heads to Kosovo to visit sites hit by depleted uranium

3 November -- A team of experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is headed to Kosovo to study the impact of depleted uranium used during last year's conflict in the Balkans.

Beginning their two-week visit to Kosovo on Monday, experts will travel to six selected sites where depleted uranium was used in military ordnance. They will measure radioactivity levels and take soil and water samples which will be tested for the presence of heavy metals that result when depleted uranium breaks down.

According to UNEP, the assessment aims to determine whether there are existing or potential health or environmental risks due to the use of depleted uranium. The team is expected to publish a report on its findings in January.

In planning its trip, the team chose the sites based on data supplied by NATO. The field mission will be carried out in cooperation with the UN Mission in Kosovo and the International Protection Force, known as KFOR.

Speaking to the UN News Service just prior to his departure for Kosovo, the head of the UNEP team, Pekka Haavisto, said that during its campaign last year, NATO used some 30,000 rounds of ammunition containing depleted uranium against 112 targets.