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Belgium to pioneer blood tests on soldiers

Published on 07/10/2005

7 October 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgium is to become the first country in the world to introduce blood testing on soldiers being sent into combat, it was revealed this week.

Defence minister Andre Flahaut announced that an analysis clinic would open early next year at the military hospital Neder-over-Heembeek.

The socialist minister said the move would be “a world first” since no other country has opted to create such a centre.

Both professional and reserve soldiers will be offered the chance “on a voluntary basis” to have blood samples taken before and after they head to a mission abroad.

The testing is being introduced after ongoing complaints by soldiers about ‘Balkan syndrome’. Some soldiers claim they contracted cancer after contact with depleted uranium weapons used in fighting in the ex-Yugoslavia.

Taking blood samples from soldiers would allow experts to look for changes in their systems, which could have been caused during their time in action.

Flahaut said the Neder-over-Heembeek centre would have facilities for stocking soldiers’ blood samples “in optimal conditions”, freezing the samples.

The minister also said that an epidemiological study had been published earlier this month on the health of 30,000 retired soldiers who had worked on radar installation systems using ‘Hawk’ missiles since 1963.

“To this day, no other country where this type of radars were used has carried out a study on this scale,” said Flahaut.

He said the research, conducted by the defence minstry’s epidemiology and biostatistics department, showed that there had been no increase in mortality rates among those who had used the radar, compared to the rest of the Belgian population and to a control group of 15,000 other soldiers who had not been exposed to the radars.

The full study is to be published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news