On 9 January 2001, in recognition of concerns amongst Service personnel over the recent media coverage on Depleted Uranium, Minister for the Armed Forces, John Spellar, announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) would identify an appropriate voluntary screening programme for UK Service personnel and civilians who have served in the Balkans. This programme would be equally applicable to Gulf veterans.
An Expert Advisory Group was set up, under the leadership of the Medical Officer in Charge of the Institute of Naval Medicine, to address technical issues relating to the screening. This led to the publication of two consultation papers on the proposals for the screening programme (13 February and 11 April 2001). These papers were made available on the Department's Internet site (www.mod.uk, under Consultations) to enable the views of the scientific and medical community to be taken into account along with the veterans and their representatives. The consultation period ended on 4 July 2001 and the responses were broadly in favour of the proposals. A summary of responses to both documents has also been placed on the MOD Internet site.
On 26 September 2001, the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Dr Lewis Moonie, announced the formation of the independent Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (DUOB) to oversee the process for letting the contract for urine testing to assess past exposure to DU. The DUOB consists of technical experts in the fields of epidemiology, toxicology, screening, mass spectrometry etc along with veterans' representatives. There are also a number of Observers to the board from MOD, Department of Health, Health and Safety Executive and solicitors representing the veterans. The Gulf Veterans Illnesses Unit of the MOD provide the secretariat.
The primary purpose of the DUOB is to establish a test for uranium isotopes in urine with the required precision, accuracy and sensitivity for the voluntary testing of veterans, many of whom may have been exposed to DU over 10 years ago.
The wide and varied membership of the DUOB ensures independence, transparency, scientific rigour and a voice for veterans' representatives. It will ensure that the most accurate, precise and sensitive test is established for use in the DU screening programme and will balance the needs of the veterans and the MOD.
The test being set up by the DUOB is retrospective and relates to the possibility of DU exposure several or many years previously. It is quite separate from the MoD's Biological Monitoring policy, under which any personnel serving in areas where DU munitions are used can apply to have their urine tested for total uranium content immediately after deployment.
Note: To view documents in Adobe PDF format, you will need the free Acrobat Reader program. This can be downloaded without cost from the website of Adobe Inc.
Last updated: 27 February 2004