U.N. News Service
Thursday, February 01, 2001

  • No firm link between depleted uranium and medical cases in Kosovo: WHO team
    1 February – Following an extensive review, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have found no firm evidence linking individual medical cases in Kosovo to the use of depleted uranium munitions during the 1999 Balkans conflict.

    According to the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which requested the review, the WHO team concluded that scientific and medical studies have not proven a link between exposure to depleted uranium and the onset of cancers, congenital abnormalities or serious toxic chemical effects on organs.

    At the same time, the WHO experts noted that caution had been expressed by scientists who would like to see a larger body of non-military, independent studies to confirm this viewpoint.

    Soldiers were most likely to have inhaled uranium metal and oxides in dusts and smoke, according to the WHO team, while the general population, except possibly in isolated incidents, would probably not have been exposed in this manner.

    Pointing out that civilians could most likely come into contact with the substance by picking up objects on the ground, the WHO team concluded that routine measures to remove depleted uranium objects from the ground surface would be beneficial. But the experts did not recommend the creation of an immediate, separate cleanup programme at depleted uranium sites.

    According to UNMIK, the team emphasized that "depleted uranium issues are small in comparison" to the deaths and injuries caused by the presence of high levels of lead in people in Mitrovica as well as the "alarmingly high" rate of traffic deaths.

    The four-member WHO expert team reached its conclusions following meetings with concerned officials and visits to sites hit by depleted uranium-tipped shells. WHO's findings, which will be published next week, were presented to UNMIK in draft form on Tuesday.