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UNEP to assess depleted uranium sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nairobi, 15 October 2002 - A team of experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is preparing to visit 12 sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that may have been targeted by ordnance containing depleted uranium (DU) during the 1994-95 Bosnian conflict.

The team will take soil, water, air and vegetation samples at six sites that have been identified by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as having been struck by DU weapons. They will examine six other sites that local residents believe may have also been targeted. The UNEP team will conduct its research from 12 - 24 October.

The UNEP assessment is being carried out at the request of the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the request of the local authorities, the medical sub-team, led by an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO), will examine data on cancer rates in the main urban centres of Sarajevo and Banja Luka. They will also visit a local hospital in Bratunac to meet with the local medics and with patients who may have been exposed to DU during the conflict.

"UNEP's aim is to determine whether the use of depleted uranium during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina may pose health or environmental risks - either now or in the future," said Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of UNEP's Depleted Uranium Assessment Team. "Previous studies of DU in Kosovo and Serbia recommended that governments and civilians take precautionary action to avoid contact with DU."

The 17-member team also includes experts from UNEP, the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI), Spiez Laboratory (Switzerland), Italy's National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Bristol (UK).

The mission is being funded by the Governments of Italy and Switzerland. The samples being collected will be analysed in detail in three internationally recognized laboratories Spiez Laboratory, (Switzerland), ANPA, (Italy) and Bristol University, (UK) - for radioactivity and toxicity.

The final conclusions will be presented in a report to be published in March 2003.

Note to journalists:
For more information, please contact the Chairman of the UNEP Depleted Uranium Assessment Team, Mr. Pekka Haavisto at +41-79-477-0877 or; Henrik Slotte, Head of UNEP Post-Conflict Assessment Unit at +41-22-917 8598 or; or UNEP Press Officer Michael Williams at +41-22-9178242/+41-79-409-1528 (cell)/ UNEP News Release 2002/73

Tuesday 15 Oct 2002
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