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Did NATO attacks in Yugoslavia cause a detectable environmental effect in Hungary?

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Abstract

Because of the intensive NATO bombardment of the neighboring region to Hungary, i.e., Vojvodina, North Yugoslavia, air monitoring for detection of depleted uranium particles supposed to be used as a component of bullets was extended to the Southern region of the country. Alpha spectrometry was applied as a sensitive analytical technique able to detect uranium. Though no depleted uranium was detected in air by the sensitive technique of alpha-spectrometry, the increased uranium content in natural ratio as a component of normal soil, natural gas, etc., is suggested to originate from well dispersed dust (2.5 microm size) emitted to the atmosphere by explosions during bombing. This observation is supported by the geographical distribution and the relatively rapid decrease of pollution after the bomb attacks ceased.
... The situation has been further complicated by recent war conflicts. Burning or damaging of industrial and military targets in the former Republic of Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars and the "Allied Force" operation in the spring of 1999 resulted in a release of the large amounts of POPs (including polychlorinated biphenyls, flame-retardants, and explosives) into the environment (Melas et al., 2000;Kerekes et al., 2001;Picer and Holoubek, 2003;. Many damaged PCB filled capacitors remained in service posing further risks, and even when their operation was discontinued, they were stored without proper management (Klanova et al., 2007a;Klanova et al., 2007b;Radonic et al., 2009) . ...
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The ambient air and soil monitoring network was established in 22 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in support of the Global Monitoring Plan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Polyurethane foam based passive air samplers were used as a tool for monitoring of POPs in ambient air at remote, rural, suburban, and urban sites with the aim of filling the information gaps identified in this UN region. High atmospheric levels of PCBs, HCHs, DDTs or HCB were observed at the rural as well as urban sites indicating that organochlorines still pose a significant problem in CEE. Pesticide storage, industrial complexes, military zones, and landfills were responsible for the elevated levels of POPs in this survey. The background levels of these compounds, however, were often elevated, too. (C) Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
... However, in real-time, data suggested the detection of uranium dust in remote regions (distance about 2,400 miles) [3]. Kerkes and coworkers reported slightly increased concentration of small uranium particles caused by dispersed DU dust emitted during the bombing of Serbia, namely Kosovo region [4]. After inhalation, alpha particles induce harmful, longstanding bystander effect with possible early and delayed health consequences [1]. ...
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Although in the composition of the earth's crust, uranium exerts his harmful health, as well as environment effects if used both for nuclear weapons systems, or released in nuclear disasters. The thesis on the local application of uranium is unsustainable considering his physicochemical characteristics. Natural uranium, as well as depleted uranium emits alpha particles. The high ionization potential is liable for alpha particles’ bystander effect in the living tissues, what is the basis of early and delayed health effects of depleted uranium. In the nature, repeated releases of no natural, high amounts of alpha particles, as it has been since 1991, when depleted uranium was used first time for military purposes, may induce empirically unknown consequences and catastrophic phenomena, including atmosphere heating. Some molecular mechanisms that resist radiation harm were discusses as examples of hormesis related to the biosphere and lithosphere-atmosphere-ionosphere coupling.
... The second approach is a non-expensive and reliable means of air quality status assessment, giving also an indication of the past level of pollution (Smodiš and Parr, 1999). In the summer of 1999, Kerekes et al. (2001) used air samplers located in the southern region of Hungary for assessing the amount of DU in air. The isotopic ratios revealed only isotopic ratios very close to those expected for natural uranium. ...
Article
Depleted uranium (DU), a waste product of uranium enrichment, has several civilian and military applications. It was used as armor-piercing ammunition in international military conflicts and was claimed to contribute to health problems, known as the Gulf War Syndrome and recently as the Balkan Syndrome. This led to renewed efforts to assess the environmental consequences and the health impact of the use of DU. The radiological and chemical properties of DU can be compared to those of natural uranium, which is ubiquitously present in soil at a typical concentration of 3 mg/kg. Natural uranium has the same chemotoxicity, but its radiotoxicity is 60% higher. Due to the low specific radioactivity and the dominance of alpha-radiation no acute risk is attributed to external exposure to DU. The major risk is DU dust, generated when DU ammunition hits hard targets. Depending on aerosol speciation, inhalation may lead to a protracted exposure of the lung and other organs. After deposition on the ground, resuspension can take place if the DU containing particle size is sufficiently small. However, transfer to drinking water or locally produced food has little potential to lead to significant exposures to DU. Since poor solubility of uranium compounds and lack of information on speciation precludes the use of radioecological models for exposure assessment, biomonitoring has to be used for assessing exposed persons. Urine, feces, hair and nails record recent exposures to DU. With the exception of crews of military vehicles having been hit by DU penetrators, no body burdens above the range of values for natural uranium have been found. Therefore, observable health effects are not expected and residual cancer risk estimates have to be based on theoretical considerations. They appear to be very minor for all post-conflict situations, i.e. a fraction of those expected from natural radiation.
Article
The occurrence of elevated uranium levels in post-war areas raise concerns among populations, especially in areas affected by heavy bombardment and potential use of depleted uranium weapons. The aim of this study was to assess public exposure to the uranium Water, soil, vegetables, urine, serum and hair samples were collected for the first time in eastern Croatia and analysed using an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) method, in order to try to explain the possible origins of uranium in the population and environment. Urine, serum and hair samples were collected from 389 inhabitants. A large variation of uranium concentrations in urine, serum and hair samples was found in this study. The majority of urine, serum and hair samples from our study had uranium concentrations below the reference literature values. A higher uranium concentration in the hair of 4% of inhabitants, mostly from rural areas, could not be explained at this stage of research. A further, extended epidemiological study should be made of uranium in the region.
Article
Depleted Uranium (DU) is used in ammunition designed for armour‐piercing. DU was used in the Gulf war 1991, wars in Bosnia 1994–1995, Kosovo 1999 and Iraq 2003. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Post‐Conflict Branch investigated sites where DU was used and evaluated health and environmental risks during missions to Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia. During a mission to Lebanon in 2006, UNEP also sampled areas where DU was supposed to have been used but did not find any DU. Due to the grave risks to the lives of UN personnel, no UNEP mission was carried out in Iraq. UNEP has provided training for personnel engaged in decontamination of DU in Bosnia and Iraq.
Chapter
Some basic facts and knowledge on depleted uranium (DU) and characteristics and identification of ammunition used in the Balkans are summarized. The results of radioecological surveys at selected sites during the prewar period, immediately after bombing, occurrence since then and details of clean-up operations are presented. Uranium content measurements in different environmental (air, soil, water) and biological (lichens, earthworms, urine, blood) samples were performed using various techniques to distinguish natural from anthropogenic sources. The evidence for airborne transport, aqueous transport, and biological transport as the dominant mechanisms of environmental transport of DU are considered in relation to the Balkans. The long-term DU effects on the environment in the target areas and the various possible health hazards arising from its radioactivity and chemical toxicity are discussed. The ground water system has appeared to be over a long-time scale (several hundreds of years) the main risk for the population but this depends on various hydrogeological parameters that need to be evaluated at the site in question. Available scientific literature has been considered in regard to a relationship between uranium exposure of the body and increased incidence of cancer or genetic defects.
Article
Several weapons used during the recent conflict in Yugoslavia contain depleted uranium, including missiles and armor-piercing incendiary rounds. Health concern is related to the use of these weapons, because of the heavy-metal toxicity and radioactivity of uranium. Although chemical toxicity is considered the more important source of health risk related to uranium, radiation exposure has been allegedly related to cancers among veterans of the Balkan conflict, and uranium munitions are a possible source of contamination in the environment. Actual measurements of radioactive contamination are needed to assess the risk. In this paper, a computer simulation is proposed to estimate radiological risk related to different exposure scenarios. Dose caused by inhalation of radioactive aerosols and ground contamination induced by Tomahawk missile impact are simulated using a Gaussian plume model (HOTSPOT code). Environmental contamination and committed dose to the population resident in contaminated areas are predicted by a food-web model (RESRAD code). Small values of committed effective dose equivalent appear to be associated with missile impacts (50-y CEDE < 5 mSv), or population exposure by water-independent pathways (50-y CEDE < 80 mSv). The greatest hazard is related to the water contamination in conditions of effective leaching of uranium in the groundwater (50-y CEDE < 400 mSv). Even in this worst case scenario, the chemical toxicity largely predominates over radiological risk. These computer simulations suggest that little radiological risk is associated to the use of depleted uranium weapons.
Article
Recently, several studies have reported on the health and environmental consequences of the use of depleted uranium. Depleted uranium is a heavy metal that is also radioactive. It is commonly used in missiles as a counterweight because of its very high density (1.6 times more than lead). Immediate health risks associated with exposure to depleted uranium include kidney and respiratory problems, with conditions such as kidney stones, chronic cough and severe dermatitis. Long-term risks include lung and bone cancer. Several published reports implicated exposure to depleted uranium in kidney damage, mutagenicity, cancer, inhibition of bone, neurological deficits, significant decrease in the pregnancy rate in mice and adverse effects on the reproductive and central nervous systems. Acute poisoning with depleted uranium elicited renal failure that could lead to death. The environmental consequences of its residue will be felt for thousands of years. It is inhaled and passed through the skin and eyes, transferred through the placenta into the fetus, distributed into tissues and eliminated in urine. The use of depleted uranium during the Gulf and Kosovo Wars and the crash of a Boeing airplane carrying depleted uranium in Amsterdam in 1992 were implicated in a health concern related to exposure to depleted uranium.
Article
Kosovo was bombarded by fired shells (bullets) with depleted uranium (DU) during April 1999. Around 30,000 depleted uranium rounds (projectiles) were fired, and about 10 tons of the DU debris were scattered across Kosovo. In reviewing the data on environmental measurements for depleted uranium collected by field missions in the Kosovo area during the period of 5-19 November 2000 (1.5 y following the 1999 conflict), evidence of depleted uranium was found only in soil samples at localized points of concentrated contamination. Concentrations varied from a few mg (2.34 mg) DU per kg soil (29 Bq DU/kg soil) at depths of 39.5-44.5 cm up to about 18 g DU per kg soil (225,760 Bq DU/kg soil) at depths of 0-5 cm surface soil. There were no signs of depleted uranium in waters. However, in most (80%) of the 145 soil (core) samples reported by UNEP, 238U was lower than 100 Bq per kg soil (the lowest was 8.8 Bq per kg soil) in 112 locations of widespread contamination.
Article
Chromosome aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) were determined in standard peripheral lymphocyte metaphase preparations of 13 British Gulf War veterans, two veterans of the recent war in the Balkans and one veteran of both wars. All 16 volunteers suspect exposures to depleted uranium (DU) while deployed at the two different theatres of war in 1990 and later on. The Bremen laboratory control served as a reference in this study. Compared with this control there was a statistically significant increase in the frequency of dicentric chromosomes (dic) and centric ring chromosomes (cR) in the veterans' group. indicating a previous exposure to ionising radiation. The statistically significant overdispersion of die and cR indicates non-uniform irradiation as would be expected after non-uniform exposure and/or exposure to radiation with a high linear energy transfer (LET). The frequency of SCEs was decreased when compared with the laboratory control.
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