BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 22:09 GMT
Fury at uranium cancer denial
British soldiers
British soldiers are to be offered health checks
Ex-soldiers have reacted angrily to the UK Government's denial of a link between uranium-tipped weapons and cancer.

And a mother, who believes her son may have died from contact with depleted uranium weaponry, has called for compulsory regular screening for troops.

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar told the Commons that depleted uranium (DU) would remain part of British forces' arsenal for the "foreseeable future"

The European Union is to investigate suggestions of a connection between DU and cases of cancer among peacekeepers in the Balkans.

Click here to see where illness has been reported

Several European countries have already carried out medical tests on soldiers who served in the Kosovo conflict who may have been exposed to radiation from the ammunition.

They are just trying to cover up themselves by saying there wasn't a problem when there so obviously was

Kevin Rudland
Mr Spellar said there would be a voluntary screening programme for military personnel who had served in the Balkans and were worried about their health.

Former army engineer Kevin Rudland, the first British ex-serviceman to say contact with DU dust in the Balkans had caused him to suffer a related illness, said he collapsed with disappointment while watching the minister's announcement.

"I was just so shocked and it took me about an hour to come round. I am devastated," he went on.

Kevin Rudland
Kevin Rudland: Collapsed

"From what I have been told the tests they are proposing are not the right ones.

"We need testing for depleted uranium not uranium.

"There was nothing for the soldiers whatsoever. It was all said so arrogantly.

"They are just trying to cover up themselves by saying there wasn't a problem when there so obviously was.

"But I will keep on campaigning even though I am very down now. It has given me a big knock."

Compensation call

Tony Flint, of the Gulf Veterans and Families Association, described Mr Spellar's statement as "not worth the paper it was printed on".

"He hasn't said what that screening programme will contain.

"The only type of screening that is acceptable to us and any other veteran will be for depleted uranium," said Mr Flint.

Tony Flint
Tony Flint: "Load of rubbish"
"From what he was saying, there's no GP that could look at a Gulf veteran that comes to him and have the qualifications to say 'you might be suffering from depleted uranium poisoning, let's send you off for tests'.

"We have children who have been born with identical birth defects that the children in Iraq are suffering from.

"Things need to be done very, very quickly, hopefully to save some lives.

"We would like compensation because we haven't been able to work for years and earn a decent living. Our families are suffering because of this."

And a woman is demanding answers about her son's death from leukaemia five months ago.

My son may have died but at least others can be saved

Gail Norris

Gail Norris, of Whitefield, Greater Manchester, believes her son Alan Joy's death may have been due to contact with depleted uranium (DU) ammunition during the time he served in the Balkans from 1996.

She said: "My son may have died but at least others can be saved.

"If my son had had regular screening he might still have been alive today."

The 27-year-old, who was a physical training instructor with the Parachute Regiment, was diagnosed with cancer in September 1999.

Compulsory screening sought

She does not believe that the UK Government is going far enough with voluntary screening.

She said: "I think there should be regular, compulsory screening every 12 months."

"They can afford to test for drugs regularly so why can't they afford to screen for cancer."

"If you go into a war situation you expect you might die because of a landmine or your enemy.

"You don't expect that the risk of death is created by your own country.

Depleted uranium (DU) is used in munitions to make bullets or missiles more dense so they can pierce armour.

The material gives off relatively low levels of radiation, but can be dangerous if ingested, inhaled in dust or if it enters the body through cuts or wounds.

Click here to return

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Key stories



See also:

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories