§ Mr. Doug Henderson
[holding answer 15 June 1999]The Ministry of Defence's portfolio of research programmes into Gulf veterans' illnesses matters currently comprises two major epidemiological studies looking at the health of UK Gulf veterans, a neuromuscular symptoms study, an independent review of research literature, and a programme to investigate possible interactions between the medical countermeasures which were used during the 1990–91 Gulf conflict. The Ministry of Defence is also supporting 149W a further epidemiological study of UK Gulf veterans which is being funded by the United States Government. However, none of these programmes, epidemiological or otherwise, is specifically aimed at investigating the health effects of depleted uranium.
Nevertheless, all three teams conducting epidemiological research are well aware that depleted uranium is one of many possible exposures in the Gulf which have been put forward as a potential cause of Gulf-related illnesses, and they have and will continue to, take this into account in their studies. Possible exposure to depleted uranium at the time of the Gulf conflict was included in the questionnaires which the teams have sent, or are sending, to random samples of Gulf veterans and control groups.
One of the epidemiological studies—that being conducted by a team from King's College, London—published their initial results in the Lancet in January. Of the 30 different exposures reported by those veterans who completed the survey, depleted uranium was the fourth least frequently reported.
The need for further research work is kept under regular review by the Ministry of Defence and the Medical Research Council (MRC) which advises the Government on its overall strategy for Gulf health issues. So far, however, the MRC has not recommended that the Ministry of Defence commission any specific depleted uranium related research.
Gulf veterans who are concerned that their health has been adversely affected by service during the Gulf conflict, including by possible exposure to DU, are entitled to seek a referral to the Gulf veterans' Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) for a full medical assessment. During this assessment, veterans receive a standard set of tests and are asked by the examining MAP physician to provide detailed information about possible factors, including depleted uranium, to which they may have been exposed during the Gulf conflict. Any further tests which are considered clinically appropriate by the examining MAP physician, including those to detect the presence of depleted uranium, are also arranged.