The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is visiting a dozen sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina that may have been targeted by ordnance containing depleted uranium (DU) during the conflict which engulfed the country in the 1990s, the agency announced today.The team, which has been operating since Saturday, is taking soil, water, air and vegetation samples at six sites that have been identified by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as having been struck by weapons containing DU. Experts will also examine six other sites that local residents believe may have also been targeted.The UNEP assessment, which is being carried out at the request of the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will run through 24 October. At the request of the local authorities, medical experts, led by an official from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), are examining data on cancer rates in the main urban centres of Sarajevo and Banja Luka. They will also visit a local hospital in Bratunac to meet with the local medics as well as patients who may have been exposed to DU during the conflict.“UNEP’s aim is to determine whether the use of depleted uranium during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina may pose health or environmental risks – either now or in the future,” said Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of UNEP’s Depleted Uranium Assessment Team.The agency’s previous studies of DU in Kosovo and Serbia recommended that governments and civilians take precautionary action to avoid contact with the substance – a byproduct of nuclear power which has been used for heavy tank armour, anti-tank munitions, missiles and projectiles. DU has 60 per cent of the radioactivity of natural uranium and “significant chemical toxicity,” according to WHO.The 17-member team includes experts from UNEP, the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority, Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, Italy’s National Environmental Protection Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Bristol. The Governments of Italy and Switzerland are funding the mission, which is expected to publish its findings in March 2003.