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 Words in the News
  Internal Army documents seen by BBC News which suggest that military officials were warned almost four years ago that depleted uranium shells used in NATO weapons could cause cancer. BBC Science Correspondent Fergus Walsh reports
  AudioListen to the report in full

11th January 2001

Depleted uranium shells

 AudioListen to the first part of the report
   These documents, marked 'restricted', date from 1997 and discuss a new type of tank ammunition containing depleted uranium, a heavy metal that enables rounds to penetrate thick armour. They say there is a potential hazard from toxic and radioactive dust on impact. Exposure to uranium dust, they say, has been shown to increase the risks of developing lung, lymph and brain cancers.

Shaun Rusling from the Gulf War Veterans Association says the documents raise major concerns:

"This is documentation based on the analysis from the Gulf War which was completed by land command in 1997 and also the preparatory documents for the health and safety of the troops deploying to Kosovo. So are they actually admitting that they got the deployment wrong for Kosovo also, because of depleted uranium?"
  AudioListen to the words

'restricted': if a document is marked 'restricted' then only certain people are allowed to see it

tank ammunition: shells fired from tanks against an enemy

depleted uranium: what is left over after natural uranium has been enriched: it can be used to make weapons or for reactor fuel

potential hazard:something which could possibly be dangerous

toxic and radioactive dust: dust which contains a substance which produces energy in the form of harmful rays

has been shown to increase:
a formal phrase which emphasises that there is evidence of this

based on the analysis: they have studied what happened to soldiers who fought in the Gulf War

deploying: if an army deploys troops it makes them available for immediate action

NEWS 2  AudioListen to the second part of the report
   But the Ministry of Defence has issued a statement saying analysis in these documents is regarded as flawed. It doesn't change the MoD's position; there was only low level radiological risk. And that is backed up by established scientific opinion. Professor Nick Priest, an environmental toxicologist at Middlesex University, believes the concern over depleted uranium is misguided:

"Uranium has a chemical toxicity because it is a heavy metal like lead and many other metals. And because it's not very radioactive then the risk of problems associated with any small amount of radiation dose which people receive is very very small."
  AudioListen to the words

issued a statement: made an official announcement

flawed: not accurate, not correct

MoD: the initials of the Ministry of Defence

low level radiological risk: there is only a small chance of something dangerous happening as a result of the radiation

concern: worry

misguided: the concern is wrong because it is based on bad information

toxicity: if something is toxic, it is poisonous

  Read about the background in BBC News Online

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