25 January 2001
Measures taken by the Medical Service of the Belgian army in relation
with depleted uranium and other substances
Actions taken prior to deployment.
1. Risk assessment for possible pollution by CS, BZ ', and depleted uranium,
has been performed by the Medical Service of the Belgian Joint Staff in
may 1999. DU was considered a potential hazard if inhaled, ingested or
internalised within wounds, although the doses needed to reach harmful
consequences may not be reached unless one is exposed directly to explosions
within a certain radius (between 10 and 50 m, depending on the sort of
weapon). The Belgian troops were not deployed in a zone where DU had been
used. To avoid being unprepared in case of an accident -someone taking
souvenirs, or going into destroyed tanks or being exposed to explosions,...-
it was however proposed to take preventive measures. These measures were
taken after advice from the nuclear centre of Mol (Dr. Christian Urtgen).
The aim was to be able to document any future incident.
2. Filter masks (3,600) from Dräger, GE, were purchased in two batches
and delivered to Kosovo on July the 22nd, during the first week of initial
deployment of KFOR. These were intended to protect against DU dust if
Actions taken during and after deployment
1. Urine analysis: Urinalysis was performed on every Military
Personnel coming back, on 24 hours urine samples. Fluorimetry was advised
by the nuclear centre of Mol. This technique enables to determine the
total uranium content of the samples. Resolution is 1 microgram U/L. Such
a level is found among the Belgian population living in Belgium. If someone
had done something wrong or had been exposed to harmful doses, it would
have been evidenced. The BE medical staff wanted to ascertain that even
the unlikely was covered.3,580 samples had already been analysed in December
2000. All of them showed results under the microgram limit of detection,
excepted three at threshold levels. These three samples were further analysed
with spectrometry -i.e. measure of the radiation power and spectrum. The
results were assessed by the MOL centre as perfectly normal for the Belgian
2. Soil analysis: BE Medical service collected 152 soil samples
from the whole Kosovo [BE sector and outside BE sector]. These were handed
out to the University of Gent (Prof. J. Uyttenhove. Medische Fysica) for
analysis. Analysis was performed with high performance spectrometry. No
trace of DU, nor primary, nor secondary could be seen (primary would come
from the enrichment process, secondary from processing of spent nuclear
fuel). The detection limit of the method was calculated and confirmed
by the laboratory of the University of Gent.
3. Other actions concerning asbestos, lead, toxic fumes were taken
by BE during the deployment.
A compared analysis of cancer statistics from troops deployed in the
Balkans and from the rest of the BE population is currently being done.
Based on Belgian morbidity and mortality statistical datas available,
it appears that the total number of malignancies observed with military
personnel having served in the Balkans lies below the projected expectation
for a population matched for sex, age and size. To ascertain these results,
the analysis is still ongoing, and will include the whole military population
deployed in the Balkans.
The results from our sampling will be published in the peer-reviewed
' CS and BZ are crowd control gases used in FRY by the police.
They are not chemical weapons as such. But they affect the nervous system
by creating stupor,... In high doses side effects include neurovegetative
symptoms, or even comas at very high dosages.