Thu May 27 1999 18:44:41 UTC

NATO strikes send dioxins, furans, uranium over Europe

MOSCOW, May 27 (Itar-Tass) - NATO's air strikes on Yugoslavia have environmental impacts on Europe, said Major General Boris Alekseyev, the Russian army's environmental safety department chief.

He said at a press conference on Thursday that the air strikes have "far-going ecologic concequences".

NATO is doing "deliberate destruction of chemically dangerous facilities" in Yugoslavia, in particular of ammonia and polymer productions.

Struck, these productions emit clouds of high-toxic substances that travel great distances. The most dangerous components of polymer production are phosgene and hydrocyanic acid.

Ignition of polymer materials releases "enormous amounts" of dioxins and furans, Alekseyev said. Registered dioxin concentrations in the air amount to "five by ten in the minus tenth degree of a milligramme per litre of the air", he said. Dioxins accummulate in the human body, Alekseyev said.

He said NATO air power's destroying of Yugoslavia's refineries and setting them to fire are associated with the release of large amounts of hydrocarbons, the most dangerous of which is benzopyrene. Benzopyrene-contaminated smoke clouds drift as far borders of Romania, Bulgaria and less often the Czech Republic. Alekseyev said another cause for concern was that "Americans have found in the territory of Yugoslavia their convenient method for disposal of decommissioned munitions".

He explained that NATO planes fairly extensively use shells with depleted uranium.

"In fact, this is waste of nuclear production. These munitions are manufactured in Great Britain under the American license," Alekseyev said.

The anti-armour shells with uranium cores are used against tanks and concrete installations. When hitting metal or concrete, the uranium core generates heat which causes partial evaporation of the core with production of uranium oxides. Part of uranium is converted to an aerosol that can spread over large areas.

The US' using the shells with depleted uranium in operation Desert Storm in Iraq has left 20-25 percent of the American and British personnel involved in it with diseases and abnormalities at the genetic level, Alekseyev said.

NATO's raids are contaminating Yugoslavia and adjacent European states with dioxins, benzopyrene and uranium, he said.

"I think that in a year, a situation will occur in this region where the Americans will start talking that foods grown in southern Europe are not good for use," he said.

He said "there is a real danger" of contamination of the Black Sea. NATO's bombing causes leaks of oil products from Yugoslavia's storages. The oil products run off with ground waters to the Danube river which drains into the Black Sea.

Alekseyev said "a 14 kilometre-long oil sleek with a high content of oil products is moving at a speed of five kipometres an hour" down the Danube these days and is close to the Black Sea.

Getting into ground waters, oil products dissolve and convert to aromatic hydrocarbons that are bound to spread to the Black Sea, whose contamination after NATO's strikes on Yugoslavia "already has been confirmed", the military environmentalist said.