This article is more careful in placing blame on DU, but it shows that
none-the-less, the apparent health effects of modern warfare are
probably massively understated. To the victors go spoiled health...
Reuters Saturday February 3 9:41 PM ET
Bosnians Blame DU, War for Rise in Cancer
By Daria Sito-Sucic
KASINDO, Bosnia (Reuters) - ``Something is going on here which was not
happening before,'' says a doctor at a remote and decrepit hospital in
what is called Serb Sarajevo.
Slavko Zdrale, director of the Kasindo hospital at the Serb-controlled
outskirts of the Bosnian capital, says the health of Bosnian Serbs has
been significantly threatened by depleted uranium (DU).
``We have exact indicators according to which the number of cancer
patients has increased at least 2.5 times in this area compared to the
war period and the first two years after the war,'' Zdrale said.
He was referring to a period between 1992 and 1997, during which four
cases of leukemia were registered at the hospital.
Over the past three years, 18 people, including a 4-year-old child, have
died from the disease, Zdrale said.
NATO has been criticized for using armor-piercing shells in the Balkans,
which some ailing soldiers and anti-nuclear campaigners say have caused
The alliance and the United States, whose aircraft fired some 40,000 DU
shells during the 1999 air raids against Yugoslavia and earlier in
Bosnia in 1994-95, deny there is any link between the use of
DU-ammunition and cancer.
``Our analyzes indicate that there is a causal link to the use of
munitions containing depleted uranium,'' he said.
Post-war Bosnia is divided into the Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat
The hospital in Kasindo has become a major center providing medical care
for up to 100,000 people from central and eastern parts of the Serb
republic since the 1992-95 war ended.
According to Zdrale, an increased number of cancer patients have been
observed in these areas which include sites hit during the NATO air
attacks on Bosnian Serb military positions.
His claim is based on the rise of at least 2.5 times in the number of
cancer patients, most of whom come from areas hit by the DU-munition,
and on the fact that many of them are younger people.
``We are concerned about the toxic effect. The metals are in the ground,
water and food are now affected by toxic dust,'' he added.
But Zdrale said that the hospital staff were cautious about the data,
bearing in mind a high level of migration and imprecise figures on the
Muslim Doctors Cautious
In Sarajevo, doctors seem reluctant to link the illness to the use of DU
munitions even though figures presented by the main clinic have shown a
significant increase in the number of cancer patients in recent years.
However, Ismet Gavrankapetanovic, the head of the bone surgery clinic of
the Sarajevo University medical center, said his team had noticed an
increase in the number of cancer patients, particularly children, two
``I did not know what were the reasons for this. We could only express
our suspicions,'' Gavrankapetanovic said.
But even without depleted uranium there were enough factors that could
account for the rise of cancer in Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia, he
``If 2 million grenades fell on Sarajevo during its siege, there must
have been heavy metals there, including uranium.'' Heavy metals are
genotoxic, causing mutation of the DNA that might create conditions
conducive to cancer,'' he added.
Among other factors that might have contributed to a deteriorating
health situation, Gavrankapetanovic mentioned poor nutrition during the
city's 43-month siege by Bosnian Serb forces as well as daily stress,
fear, lack of water and electricity and the use of medicine well past
its shelf life.
Gavrankapetanovic said that separate figures from different parts of
Bosnia would be no more than ``speculation'' until a recognized state
institution for cancer research began to compile data for the whole
``I absolutely oppose any abuse of this information for political or any
purposes other than the treatment of patients,'' he said. ``In order to
conduct real statistical analysis, you have to have a state institute
for cancer. It is an essential. I think Bosnia is the only country in
the world without it.''
Health is among those sectors that are exclusively under control of
Bosnia's two separate entity governments, and there is no state-level
Even though Serb and Muslim doctors differ in their views of causes
which may have led to the increase in cancer across the country, they
agree that it is there.
Zdrale said that cases of leukemia and cancer of the digestive organs
were most frequent in the whole range of what he called an ``eruption''
of different types of cancer.
Both he and Gavrankapetanovic agreed on the need for Western assistance
in order to diagnose the illness at an early stage.
``We are not able to conduct such tests nor do we have equipment for
it,'' Zdrale said.
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