Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Pentagon confirms depleted uranium use
Aftermath of a raid: Is depleted uranium adding to the hazards?
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
A questioner at a DoD briefing asked: "The DU shells. Have the A-10s actually been firing them in addition to simply carrying them?"
A Pentagon spokesman, Major-General Chuck Wald, replied: "Yes". DU is a byproduct of the enrichment of uranium for military and civilian uses.
It is both radioactive and toxic, though Nato insists that it is no more dangerous than any other heavy metal.
The UK Defence Ministry says it thinks it unlikely that DU contributed to Gulf War syndrome, although many veterans believe it is implicated.
Risks are real
Published material suggests official reassurances may be misleading. The US army's Environmental Policy Institute reported in 1995: "If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences".
"The risks associated with DU are both chemical and radiological."
At least 18 tonnes of DU weapons have been test-fired in Britain at army ranges in Kirkcudbright and Cumbria. Most of the munitions landed in the Solway Firth, where they remain.
The Military Toxics Project and Dr Hari Sharma, of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, have published the results of a study into the use of DU munitions in the Gulf.
Appeal to ban DU weapons
They say the result is likely to be an increase of between 20,000 and 100,000 fatal cancers in veterans and Iraqi citizens.
Concern also persists over the wider ecological consequences of the war with Serbia.
The World Wide Fund for Nature says an environmental crisis threatens Yugoslavia and its neighbours, particularly further down the Danube and in the Black Sea.
It says the damage to downstream areas of the unidentified pollutants discharged into the Danube is unclear. Ten million people depend on the river for drinking water.