By health-newswire.com reporters
A team of international experts is to depart for Iraq next week to pave the way for research into possible links between increased cancer rates and the use of depleted uranium (DU) shells during the Gulf War.
The Iraqi government has requested the study because it believes that armour-piercing DU ammunition fired by Allied Forces in 1991 has led to an increase in leukaemia and other cancers among its population. The Iraqi health ministry says that cancer rates doubled between 1989 and 1997.
On Monday ((27/08/01) the group of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will fly to Baghdad for three days to complete proposals for a research programme. The study will investigate whether cancer rates have in fact increased and, if so, what environmental or other risk factors may be responsible.
The eight-member team will be led by Dr Abdelaziz Salah, WHO deputy regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean. His colleagues include experts in cancer epidemiology, occupational and environmental health, and other non-communicable diseases such as renal disease.
The US and UK military have continuously denied a link between DU munitions and cancer, despite claims by NATO peacekeepers serving in the Balkans that they too have contracted the disease as a result of coming into contact with the radioactive shells.
However, the UK Ministry of Defence has bowed to pressure from the Royal Society and is currently drawing up a programme for screening war veterans for exposure to uranium.
Health Media Ltd 2001