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Australian troops at risk of depleted uranium exposure.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 05/099 MONDAY 7 MARCH 2005 SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS SPOKESPERSON ON VETERANS AFFAIRS AUSTRALIAN TROOPS AT RISK OF DEPLETED URANIUM EXPOSURE Australian troops are in danger of inhaling radioactive dust or consuming food or water contaminated with Depleted Uranium (DU) from United States' shells in Iraq, according to the Australian Democrats. "The 450 additional Australian troops being sent to Iraq are going to an area which has been used as a dump for material destroyed by DU tipped shells and is radioactive, said Democrats veterans affairs spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett. In the Senate today Senator Bartlett asked the Minister for Defence if the Government considered it acceptable to subject Australian service men and women to risks of radioactive contamination contained in the dust in Samawah, Iraq. Senator Hill acknowledged there has been evidence of DU having been used in that region, particularly in 1991 and said that surveys would be conducted. Senator Bartlett also asked if all Australian service personnel would be tested on their return for radioactive contamination. The Minister replied that he would seek advice. "The health of Australian service men and women should not be put at risk, at least until the amount of depleted uranium in this area of Southern Iraq is known," said Senator Bartlett. "The Australian Government should pressure the United States to follow Australia's lead and abandon the use of DU in weaponry." A radiation dose from DU is about 60% of that from purified natural uranium. The World Health Organisation says that the greatest potential for DU exposure will follow conflict where DU munitions are used. It is used in armour penetrating ammunition in Iraq because of its high density. Contamination from DU will disperse into the wider natural environment by wind and rain. People living or working in affected areas may inhale contaminated dusts or consume contaminated food and drinking water. The chemical toxicity of uranium has the potential to cause severe damage to kidneys, and an increased risk of lung cancer. It also poses the risk for other radiation-induced cancers including leukaemia, causes skin inflammation, and fragments accumulate in the central nervous system. Media contact - Daele Healy - 0419 867 649