[du-list] Spanish KFor troops report

Francisco Castañón Blanco
Director of the Office of the Defending of the Soldier.(ODS)

Since around the end of 2000 is begun in Europe the discussion on the designated "Syndrome of the Balkans", the number of sick soldiers by various pathologies that have participated in missions of peace , developed in several territories of the former Yugoslavy , has gone increasing constantly , until composing a group of affected important enough to conclude that the genesis of this problem deserves to be investigated thoroughly.

The sick or expired soldiers existence , all of them veteran of the Balkans, for different types of cancer was denounced at the beginning in Belgium by an union of soldiers. Thereinafter it was in Italy where a relatives and exsoldiers association (Associazione nazionale assistenza vittine arruolate nelle Forze Armate e Famiglie) outlined the discussion on cases of soldiers that had died of leukemia or were suffering pathologies of oncologic type. To the affected of these countries we have to add other from Portugal , Germany , France , Greece , Holland , Suiza, Denmark and also Spain.

Today, waiting for specifying the exact number of sick veterans of all the European armies, there´s no doubt , beyond the causes that may have been able to motivate these ailments , of the need of giving alternatives and solutions to the affected by this "syndrome".

Also , the information that reaches to us , in some instances manipulated , of the parts faced by the war confirms us that also in the civil population have been detected abnormal disease indices by cancer.Though certainly we will have to wait quite time , until is procured certain political stability in the zone and is reconstructed the hospital infrastructure to be able to know the real scope of that incidence.

In this sense, since the first cases of sick soldiers began to be reported all noted as origin of the problem to the DU , used as component of the missiles used to assault armored vehicles . The pollutant effects and generating of diseases of the DU were already explained in the Gulf War , as have been manifested during these last 10 years by the American and British veterans that participated in that conflict.

But in addition to the Balkans have been present other elements so much in the military armament as in the infrastructures that were bombed . Thus , to the DU have been added the graphite bombs , the benzeno of the gasoline , the white asbestos , the plutonium , the cadmium, the phosphorus , the sulphur and gases anhidrid as the BZ or the sarin gas purportedly used in the wars of the former Yugoslavia.

We have been able to know some more data that we should have to observe , as the fact that the EEUU warned to its allies of the NATO to take special cautions due to the using of armament with DU and that the British army handled documentation in which were exposed the risks of contracting cancer as consequence of inhaling DU powder.

Our troops were not informed of these possible risks and though some cautions were taken these have not been it sufficiently rigorous , until the discussion has been outlined on the "Syndrome of the Balkans".It´s really surprising the fact that the British and American detachments in Kosovo were located within territories that were not bombed with DU missiles.

At present the Office of the Defending of the Soldier (ODS) is working in Spain with different cases of soldiers and exsoldiers , all of them veterans of the Balkans , who have denounced their situation to this NGO.These cases have been classified according to their pathologies and consequences.In this way can be recorded 24 sick cancer soldiers ( eight have expired) , a docen which have been diagnosed pathologies as disease of Crohn , hepatic or degenerative problems of the nervous system , as well as other ten soldiers with some symptoms that can be grouped according to the common ailments to all the cases , as are intestinal problems , vomits , diarrhea , hemorrhages and depletion.

The list of affected that handles the ODS , in the moment of writing these lines , ascends already to 57 (between them have been recorded 3 cooperators).The pathologies , as has already been mentioned , are various , though not so disperse as they wanted us to beleive.In the report have been introduced 8 cases of soldiers with serious psychological problems that have nothing to do , a priori , with the possible relationship cause - effect of the pollutant agents but that however they are the only pathologies that the DEFENCE minister recognizes that appear as something customary in the participation in international missions , concretely , according to his intervention in the DEFENCE Commission in the Congress of the Deputies , we would be speaking of " anxiety or stress processes".

Several veterans of the Gulf´s War were reporting some weeks ago in a press conference in the Ateneo of Madrid , that this type of psychological problems were the only that the government of EEUU recognized in sick soldiers after their return of the conflict with Iraq.

Seems important also to emphasize the continuous contradictions in those which have incurred different entities and organizations in the course of this discussion , beginning by our DEFENCE ministry that began denying in a way categorical the existence of cases of leukemia between Spanish soldiers. Thereinafter when it was known the death of the soldier Antonio González López by this cause was asserted that " he was not displaced in Kosovo ". Later , when it was known that this soldier had been destined in Macedonia in a Sanitary Unit and that had entered Kosovo going through the most contaminated routes, it was asserted that it was existing no relationship cause - effect in this case, and in other that already were beginning to appear , with DU.

Being specified that they had been accomplished 5000 checkups in which was not detected "no radiological anomaly related to the DU " and concluding that the diseases of the Spanish soldier should be related to "natural causes". After was known that the 5000 cited analysis were prior to the appearance of the crisis of the " Syndrome of the Balkans" and were consisting of routine and random tests accomplished to the soldiers that came back from special missions.

Finally , once the citizen´s anxiety forced to DEFENCE to accomplish medical exams to the soldiers who are or were in the Balkans (2 weeks after the discussion might have begun in all Europe ), again the reality returns to surpass to the statements to be known that DEFENCE was lacking the technical means to detect uranium in the human body and that urgently was acquired by the Ministry an Espectrometer of Bulks with source of inductive coupling plasma (ICP - MS) to accomplish these tests . However , some specialists hold that to detect uranium is necessary to employ other type of appliance more advanced.

The exams accomplished to the soldiers have consisted of blood analysis , analysis of urine , an epidemiological survey , a physical exploration and questions on their medical dossier . These analysis have been established above all , according to the criterion of military physicians , for the lead and cadmium detection . The analysis parameters ( according to the documentation with the results delivered to the soldiers ) is grouped in the following references : hemograma , V.S.G., Blood biochemistry, Heart Enzymes - Pacing, urines Biochemistry and Coagulation.

The results obtained will be transmitted to the Investigation Committee created by the DEFENCE Ministry , and it will transmit its conclusions directly to the competent organization of the NATO that investigate the Syndrome.

The international organizations involved in this discussion after a first phase of skepticism about the effects of the utilization of ammunition with DU , they have recommended to adopt the corresponding measures.

The UN , after detecting abnormal radiation in bombed Kosovo zones , they have recommended to isolate the affected points , and in a recent report , made known the past 14 of March , make relative the danger of the DU used in Kosovo , though it does not offer a definitive response that permit to obtain clear conclussions .

The WHO after discarding the relationship between the DU and the cases of leukemia , recognizes that inhaling small particles of DU would lead to an hypothetical cancer risk and advises the elaboration of depth exams of the effects in the health to middle and long term from the exposure to uranium due to the radioactive and chemistries properties of this metal.

The NATO , after avoiding any responsibility , it has requested " to clean " the zones contaminated and , on the other hand , the group of experts of the European Commission responsible of elaborating a report on the risks for the health and the environment of the DU , have already concluded that it does not exist relationship between the use of this material and the appearance of some types of cancer and leukemia, but it´s curious, according to agencies information , that this wrorkgroup " has not entered to analyze the use of DU in the military field ", and this point seems to be the most elevant thing in this issue.

While it is clarified the cause or causes that may have been able to provoke the "Syndrome of the Balkans , there is something perfectly stated , persons with deseases , nearly all they very youths , that are or have been developing a service in the armed forces as soldiers of troop and professional navy . Precisely , if there is something exposed in this discussion it is the so lamentable coverage that have the professional soldiers when suffer some type of injury or disease , either of physical character or psychological.

Because of this the ODS has centered its performance in the human factor of this problem , opening 2 work process . On the one hand requesting and urging to DEFENCE to create a line of social coverage , assistance and economic for these soldiers to be attended correctly and may have the necessary means to confront a personal situation that in most cases incapacitates them to work or to have a normal life.On the other hand, outlining to various parliamentary groups in the Congress of the Deputies the possibility of undertakeing initiatives of legislative character that leads to an improvement of the regulation on this topic that the Law 17/99 (Law of Regime of the Personal of the Armed forces) was entrusted with restricting , putting us on a situation that we cannot support , so much more when we are in a total professionalization process of the army that requires some advances in the treatment , work and coverage conditions of the troops.

The international missions of peace are since a few decades one of the fundamental labors of the armed forces and , without any doubt , it will be the sama in the future since we are involved in the military structure of the NATO and involved as country of the EU in the slow but unstoppable construction of an European Common Defence and of the Euroarmy.

The troop and navy soldiers ( that sign a commitment, not a contract , with the restrictions that this supposes at the time of possessing a minimal occupational right ) assume the existence of the risks that be present in the fulfillment of these missions , it seems logical then, that when it emerges some problem as the one which we have now , independently of the origin but generated in the conflict zone , the Ministry of Defence act with the indispensable social sensibility for our soldiers and creates a process to attend in all the possible dimension the sanitary and humanitary needs with a minimum dignity, of the ones who have served in the Balkans , not forgetting them when they begin to appear the sequels of our participation in that zone that, after the last events , continues immerse in a conflict that has regrettably permanency signs.

Office of the Defending of the Soldier