Depleted uranium may pose risk to children - study
LONDON - Soil contaminated with debris from depleted uranium shells could be putting children in the Balkans and the Gulf at an increased risk of developing cancer and kidney damage, New Scientist magazine said this week.
Youngsters who play in areas where the shells created clouds of uranium dust when they hit their targets are most endangered, according to Italian researchers.
\"The Italian team says that children living in areas of conflict that have been bombarded with DU (depleted uranium) could get a dose of radiation above the internationally recognised safety limit,\" the science weekly said.
Researchers from the University of Florence and the Tuscan Environment Protection Agency (ARPAT) calculated that children could inhale a radiation dose from contaminated soil that would exceed safety levels set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
Swallowing contaminated soil would increase the risk further.
\"In sites targeted by DU munitions, special measures have to be adopted to reduce exposures,\" said Daniele Dominici, a physicist at the University of Florence.
Depleted uranium is used to harden the tips of armour-piercing shells.
Others studies, including research from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, support the Italian findings. A report by Britain\'s Royal Society, an academy of leading scientists, said soldiers exposed to high levels of depleted uranium could suffer kidney damage and it could pose a risk to civilians through contaminated soil or water supplies.
It suggested topsoil in heavily contaminated areas should be removed and water quality monitored for any contamination.
Concerns about the health effects of DU arose last year after peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo said they had developed leukaemia after exposure to the material.
\"Some 270 tonnes of DU have been spread over battlefields in the Gulf and the Balkans during the last decade, the vast majority by U.S. forces,\" the magazine added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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