HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 c98W
Mr. Breed

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what data he has collated on the local environmental effects of the use of depleted uranium with respect to(a) human and (b) other life forms. [104263]

Mr. Spellar

The existing scientific literature on the possible hazards of depleted uranium (DU) is extensive. In 1993, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency's Radiation Protection Service, then the Defence Radiological Protection Service, published a summary report of its assessment of the radiological and chemical hazards of DU. The report explained that there are two types of hazard posted by the use of DU: a radiation hazard, although DU is a low specific activity material (as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency); and a chemical toxicity hazard, which is similar to that posed by other heavy metals, such as lead.

A Ministry of Defence paper entitled "Testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of the Gulf conflict: The Current Position" was published on 19 March 1999. This paper describes the scenarios in which UK troops may have been exposed to DU in the Gulf and outlines the possible health effects of exposures.

In December 1993, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency commissioned the independent environmental consultants W. S. Atkins to conduct an environmental impact assessment of DU firings on Ministry of Defence ranges in the UK. The consultants' report was published in 1995 and concluded that the radiation doses to members of the public and the associated risks from exposure to DU released in the environment, were extremely low. These conclusions were, and continue to be, sustained by comprehensive monitoring programmes at both sites.

In addition, the joint UN Environment Programme/UN Commission on Human Settlements issued its report "The Kosovo Consequences for Environment" on 5 October 1999. The report assessed the potential effects on human health and the environment arising from the possible use of depleted uranium during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

Copies of all of these documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Finally, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) on 2 November 1999, Official Report, column 89W, concerning a further review by the Ministry of Defence on the health effects of DU.

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