Royal Society to broaden Depleted Uranium panel
The evidence queues each day outside Basra's tiny cancer clinic
Report from Radioactive Times Volume 4, Number 1, June 2000 (content not updated)Professor Brian Spratt, chair of a panel of scientists commissioned by the Royal Society to conduct an independent investigation of the dangers of Depleted Uranium weapons, has told LLRC that he wants to broaden the representation of biologists on the group. The original six were, he said, rather heavy on physics. Professor Spratt himself is a bacteriologist - Professor of Biology at Oxford University's Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease. Dame Barbara Clayton is an Honorary Professor in Metabolism at Southampton University. She is known for earlier work on the health effects of lead in paint and the accident in which aluminium was added to water supplies at Camelford. [see note]
The other four are Dr Clive Marsh, Director of Physics Research, AWE Aldermaston, Professor Ian Shanks, Science Advisor to Unilever Research, Professor Marshall Stoneham, Director of the Centre for Materials Research, University College London, and Dr Michael Bailey from the Dose Assessments Department at NRPB.
Gulf War veterans were sceptical of the panel's usefulness, and were quick to point out that when interviewed for Radio 4 Professor Spratt said that he hoped it would provide reassurance to Veterans (though when prompted by Sue McGregor he did add ... or not).
Professor Malcolm Hooper, chief scientific adviser to the Gulf Veterans' Association, said that the Royal Society study seemed likely to be yet another review of what was already known. In a trenchant letter to the newspapers he wrote, Unless the working group requires direct measurements to be made on veterans, it will be just another paper exercise, another alibi for not directly addressing the health of the veterans -- in short, a cover-up.
The Independent's Foreign correspondent Robert Fisk challenged the Royal Society to go and find the evidence, which he said queues each day outside Basra's tiny cancer clinic.
Epidemiologist Rosalie Bertell, whose warnings about DU are well-known, said the committee's intention to study "all available evidence" was possibly a loophole leading to the discovery of nothing. Not all information or fact finding is technically accepted as "evidence", she said, And what is "available" may well not be adequate.
She suggested that the UK veterans should be allowed to appoint their own scientific oversight committee, which would be given access to all documents and meetings of the Committee.
Professor Spratt told LLRC that the study would be wider than had been intended at first, and that he hoped to report in the autumn.
The panel has three new members:
Professor Dudley Goodhead (Director of the Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, Medical Research Council Harwell)
Professor Jolyon Hendry (Experimental Radiation Oncology Group, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Christie Hospital)
and Dr Virginia Murray (Director, Chemical Incident Response Service, Medical Toxicology Unit, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust)
LLRC to give evidence
More recently, and following further correspondence, LLRC's Chris Busby has been invited to give a 20 minute presentation of evidence connecting DU exposure with ill health. The RS have however decided not to invite two people whose evidence is of critical importance.
The first is Canadian Professor Hari Sharma, whose Uranium measurements of ex-Gulf War servicemen showed high levels of DU in urine ten years after the exposure.
The second, Professor Doug Rokke, was the US Army commander in charge of decontamination of the Gulf War weapons systems. Many of Rokke's team are now dead from cancer and Rokke himself is not well. Both recently visited London and gave evidence to the Commons Select Committee for defence.
Custer's Last Stand
In the area of low level radiation risk unacceptable evidence of the truth has consistently been passed on to sequential committees of "independent" scientists. With Sellafield the buck passed from NRPB to Sir Douglas Black and from Black to COMARE.
With DU the Royal Society has now been wheeled in to reassure the veterans as the last and most "independent" of the many experts. They follow MEDACT, whose own inquiry last autumn was offered some very strange and irrelevant advice, as LLRC exposed at the time. [see www.llrc.org/medact.htm]
If the Royal Society panel puts the telescope to its blind eye, like the other "independent" committees, their credibility will go the same way. This is, however, the end of the line -- no-one more credible exists.
Note: Dame Barbara Clayton
We stated earlier on this site, and in the printed version of Radioactive Times that Dame Barbara Clayton is a member of COMARE. The Chairman of COMARE has emailed us to say that she is not and has never been a member of the committee. This was an error on our part (we confused Dame Barbara with Professor Keith Clayton, who was a member.) We apologise.
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