British jury rules that DU was likely cause of dead Gulf Veteran's colon cancer
The jury at Smethwick Council House returned a narrative verdict – a verdict that does not attribute blame to any single person or organisation – finding that it was more likely than not that Mr Dyson's death in June last year was ''caused or contributed to'' by exposure to depleted uranium.
Stuart Dyson (pictured) had been a Lance Corporal with the Royal Pioneer Corps and had cleaned tanks after the 1991 Gulf War during a five-month deployment to the war zone.
His widow, mother-of-two Elaine Dyson, had described how his health had deteriorated after he left the army in 1992. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, soon afterwards it spread to his liver and spleen. Mrs Dyson explained that her 39-year-old husband had been convinced that his illness was linked to his time in the Gulf. After he returned from the conflict he developed sleep problems, night sweats, creaking bones, a weakened immune system and cold sores as his health deteriorated.
Black Country Coroner Robin Balmain said he intended to send a report on the death to the Secretary of State for Defence, adding that he was disappointed that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had chosen not to send their own expert witness to the inquest. He said:''This case has brought into sharp focus the problems that arise and the difficulties of dealing with the conflict between the need of the military to have the best munitions for their tasks, and the health of soldiers who go to war ... and indeed the health of the public who are caught up in wars.''
Mr Balmain, who is to write to the defence secretary under Rule 43 of the Coroners' Rules, described the scientific evidence presented to the jury as 'persuasive'. ''What action is taken is no doubt a difficult political decision, but what I am certain of is that action needs to be taken,'' the coroner added.
During the case, Prof. Chris Busby from the Low Level Radiation Campaign gave evidence to the jury said: ''We also know...that he was cleaning tanks and generally walking about in Gulf War One, where there was a significant amount of depleted uranium in the air. Mr Dyson was exposed by inhalation and ingestion.
''My feeling about Mr Dyson's colon cancer is that it was produced because he ingested some radioactive material and it became trapped in his intestine. To my mind there seems to be a causal arrow from his exposure to his final illness," said Busby. "It's certainly much more probable than not that Mr Dyson's cancer was caused by exposure to depleted uranium. The interesting thing about Mr Dyson's cancer is that he was extremely young - the chances of him acquiring the cancer were something like six per million per year.''
A spokesperson from the MoD said: "We have co-operated fully with the coroner and have provided him with a written report from our technical expert on depleted uranium on the health issues relevant to Mr Dyson's case.
"In a letter to the coroner we explained that on this occasion we would not provide an expert witness unless the coroner thought it necessary. There is no reliable scientific or medical evidence to suggest that depleted uranium has been responsible for post-conflict incidences of ill-health in UK Forces' personnel or civilian populations.
"Of the thousands of troops monitored worldwide, very few have had any detectable depleted uranium exposure. We are happy to study any further evidence presented at the inquest when this is made available."
The news comes just months after the publication of a paper which speculated whether exposure to DU may have been responsible for increased rates of prostate cancer amongst the US military. The paper: Cancer Incidence in the U.S. Military Population was written by researchers from the U.S. Military Cancer Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the US National Cancer Institute, NIH and the National Naval Medical Center. However, they stated that their findings did not reflect the official views of the U.S. Departments of the Army, Navy, or Defense; National Cancer Institute; or U.S. government.