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Vets Issues

By Susie Boniface 15/06/2008

Veteran Roy Sefton Roy Sefton (Pic:Simcox)
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Britain’s forgotten nuclear test veterans were celebrating this week after a major breakthrough in their campaign to have their suffering recognised.

The Government, which has ignored their plight for 50 years, had said if a study of vets in New Zealand was proved to have shown their health had been seriously affected by the tests, they would take the British survivors’ claims seriously.

This week some of the world’s leading scientists have confirmed that the survey showing massive DNA damage to 50 NZ sailors, whose navy ships were told to sail through nine nuclear blasts’ fallout, was valid.

It proved what the Government has been trying to deny – that 22,000 British servicemen and their families have also been hit by genetic illnesses, cancers and disfigurements from witnessing hundreds of blasts as Britain raced to build a nuclear bomb during the Cold War.

Now demands are growing for research into the 3,000 surviving vets who have rare conditions and cancers.

Their wives had high miscarriage rates and their children were 10 times more likely to be born deformed.

When the research was published last year, showing the men had radiation damage to their genes, Gordon Brown told campaigners: “If it is found that serving at the nuclear tests caused harm, then Britain owes them a debt of honour.”

And Veterans Minister Derek Twigg said the Government would foot the £415,000 bill to repeat the study here if scientists said it was accurate. Now campaigners want the promises kept.

Survivor Ken McGinley, who has severe digestive problems and a rare blood disorder, said: “We have been waiting for months for this review.

The scientists are quite clear – it has to be repeated here.

“There is no wriggle room. Gordon Brown and Derek Twigg should immediately commission research from independent scientists before it’s too late.

“Too many vets have already died, and taken the evidence with them.”

The study review, published in the International Cytogenetic and Genome Research journal, found the New Zealand vets were exposed to twice the radiation as those not at the tests.

The figures were similar to those for Hiroshima survivors.

And it called for a similar study on British soldiers.

John Lowe, of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, said: “The worst-affected are already dead. But evidence of what happened lives on in their children and research should be done on them too.” Campaigning MPs John Baron and Ian Gibson held a parliamentary inquiry last year to demand new research. Mr Baron said: “We want justice for these brave servicemen.”

This shows the dyed chromosomes of a NZ test vet.

Each one should have been uniform in colour. Instead the different blocks of colour show how the radiation has scrambled the DNA

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