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Iraq: Radioactive Soil

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 19 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to reports that abnormally high levels of radioactivity have been detected in soil samples from southern Iraq in recent years. [HL1684]

Matters relating to the environment in Iraq are the responsibility of the Government of Iraq. However, the UK has worked, and will continue to work, closely with scientific and humanitarian organisations and with the international community to respond to any requests for assistance from the Iraqi authorities.

The Ministry of Defence is aware that most reports on radioactivity in Iraq relate to the past use of depleted uranium munitions in that country. Our scientists have found that many reports on the subject on the world wide web and in media articles conflict with what is in the published scientific literature. It also conflicts with what is in the reports of independent and internationally respected organisations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organisation and the Royal Society. Most recently, a paper published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology concluded that “veterans and civilians who did not occupy DU-contaminated vehicles are unlikely to have internalized quantities of DU significantly in excess of normal internalization of natural uranium from the environment”. This reflects the international scientific consensus that neither the level of DU in the environment nor the risk to the health of civilians in Iraq is significant.