Dundee set to benefit from NZ cash boost

May 12, 2000

A Dundee University researcher investigating the impact on health of the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons tests on Christmas Island has won a funding boost from the New Zealand government.

The research could lead to better monitoring of potential health hazards in the nuclear industry.

Mark Burton, New Zealand's minister for veterans' affairs, has given NZ$200,000 (Pounds 62,188) to the New Zealand nuclear tests veterans association to help the 528 servicemen who took part in Operation Grapple, part of the UK tests in 1957-58. Half will go to Dundee, where Sue Rabbitt Roff, of the centre for medical education, is heading studies of New Zealand and UK veterans.

About 12,000 servicemen, mostly conscripts, took part in the operation to explode a series of H-bombs. Thousands have since died, many from radiation-related diseases.

Mr Burton said: "Research has indicated possible correlation between participation in the tests and the development of cancers. Many servicemen believe there is a link between radiation exposure and disabilities in their children."

Ms Roff said: "The funding will enable us to begin pilot studies of the blood and saliva of surviving nuclear test veterans to establish the amount of damage their systems received from the radiation exposure 40 or more years ago."

This was a relatively new area of medical research, she said, but she and her colleague Paul Preece, backed by senior staff in the university's medical school, have put together a world-class team of experts who could take the research beyond the statistical.

"We are very optimistic that the work will enable us to develop a diagnostic system for use in the nuclear industry in all its forms to establish occupational health hazards," she said.

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