Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  During his evidence to the Committee on 27 February, Mr Vaz undertook to provide a note about the independent studies supported by the British Government to assess objectively the possible health risks of depleted uranium on civilian populations in the Balkans. The Government have assisted the two main studies on depleted uranium by the United Nations and the European Commission that have recently been published.

  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published its report on the effects of the use of depleted uranium munitions in Kosovo on 13 March. The report gave results of the tests carried out on samples taken during field surveys of sites where depleted uranium munitions were used. It concluded that there are minor risks to health and environment in the Kosovo region, but no major threat to the civilian population. It recommended that precautions should be taken against dust and unexploded ordnance, but concluded that no large scale decontamination was necessary. It also recommended a public awareness campaign to protect the civilian population, and regular quality control checks by local authorities on water and soil. The full text of the report is available on the Internetat

  The Government had donated £55,000 for the UNEP investigation into the wider environmental effects of the Kosovo conflict, and assisted UNEP by encouraging NATO to give UNEP full details of where depleted uranium ammunition was used in Kosovo.

  The European Commission report, prepared by a group of EURATOM experts including a British expert, concluded that exposure to depleted uranium (other than from embedded shrapnel) constitutes little or no threat to personnel. The study found no observable effect on health at the low doses found, compared to the baseline incidence of ill health in the population at large. Nor did it see fit to propose stricter requirements for the uses of depleted uranium in basic safety standards for the radiation protection of workers and members of the public. The full text of the report can be accessed on the Internet at:

  Although there are the only studies to which the Government has provided direct assistance, the Government remains in contact with governments in the regionvia NATO's Ad Hoc Working Group on depleted uranium. The Ministry of Defence also intends to carry out further environmental monitoring in Kosovo in line with the statement by the Minister for the Armed Forces on 9 January. While this will focus on sites occupied by British forces, there will be benefits to local civilians. The monitoring, based on protocols produced in consultation with independent bodies, will be published and results made available to the authorities in Kosovo.

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