"Stefano Montanari" <email@example.com>
Wed, 11 Feb 2004 15:02:28 +0100
Antonietta Morena Gatti is a physicist and
bioengineer, and is
the founder and the director of the Laboratory of Biomaterials of
the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy). She is the
discoverer of the presence of micro- and nano-particles in
biological tissues and of their pathological effects. The European
Community appointed her Coordinator of the international
group in charge of the nanopathology study.
Stefano Montanari is a pharmacist and a scientific consultant. He
has collaborated with Dr Gatti for about 25 years.
THE SO-CALLED “BALKAN-SYNDROME”: A BIO-
Dr Antonietta M. Gatti – Dr Stefano Montanari
It is a well-known fact, widely reported by media, that a non-
negligible number of veterans of the Gulf War (1990-91) showed
what according to medicine are mutually unrelated symptoms. Some
of those can be attributed to stress: headache, for example, or sleep
disturbance, or forgetfulness, or an impaired concentration. Other
symptoms like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath
are somewhat harder to classify, but cancers, various and, in some
cases, extremely unusual diseases of the genitourinary system, an
increased incidence of birth defects among veterans’ children and
disorders of the blood and the haemopoietic organs must be due to
causes that cannot be legitimately ascribed to stress. Other
pathologies Gulf War veterans are suffering from, like sudden death
and Lou Gehrig’s disease are under investigation as to their
But the problem is unfortunately wider and not limited to that group
of military population.
Very similar symptoms are being displayed by soldiers who served in
the former Yugoslavian territory during the so-called Balkan War,
made worse by an unusually high incidence of Hodgkin’s and non-
Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Staffers of humanitarian missions and
Yugoslavian residents as well are suffering from the same diseases.
Professor Edo Hasanbegovic, chief of the Paediatric Clinic of
Sarajevo, denounced how leukaemia is on the increase in children
throughout the Yugoslavian Federation, but mainly in children
coming from Velika, Kladusa and Buzim, towns located close to the
An explanation to all that was offered when in March 2000 NATO
revealed that Depleted Uranium (DU) shells had been employed in
the Balkans and in 2001 traces of radioactivity were detected by the
United Nations Environment Protection agency not far from
Sarajevo, in a barracks at Han Pijesak and in two places inside a
factory in Hadzici.
It is a frequently observed fact that radioactivity is a triggering
to cancer, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki tought a painful lesson about
that. So, uranium was immediately seen as the obvious scapegoat to
For a better understanding, it is necessary to know that DU was used
to make a component of some shells used in that war, but
radioactivity played no role in that choice. High density and hardness
are the features that made those projectiles, called kinetic
penetrators, particularly fit for piercing even very thick armours.
is what is left over when most of the highly radioactive isotopes of
uranium are removed for use as nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons.
The DU used in armour-piercing munitions is also used in civilian
industry, primarily as ballast, for stabilizers in airplanes and boats.
As a matter of fact, uranium is a mixture of three isotopes: U235,
U234, and U238. When the content of U235 is below 0.711%, uranium is
classified as “depleted”, and the blend used in the Balkans contained
less than 0.2% of that isotope.
DU is approximately 40 percent less radioactive than natural
uranium and emits alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays. Alpha
particles can hardly pass through the skin, while beta particles are
blocked by most garments, and the amount of gamma rays, a form of
highly penetrating energy, emitted by DU is very low.
The radioactivity produced by those weapons is certainly not healthy,
but its full responsibility for such an unusual health situation looks
least doubtful if observed from a scientific standpoint.
In addition to that, another piece of evidence is raising a further
doubt about the radioactive origin of the pathologies: A higher-than-
expected quantity of lymphomas and symptoms identical to those
suffered from by the Balkan War’s veterans was observed in Italian
soldiers who had never served in any theatre of war nor had ever
come near to radioactive weapons. The condition all those soldiers
shared was serving in firing grounds.
In the meantime, someone tried to blame the multiple vaccinations
soldiers underwent during the so-called Operation Desert Storm, but
without being able to give any scientific demonstration to that thesis.
As a matter of fact, in addition to the usual vaccines against tetanus-
diphtheria, hepatitis B, poliovirus, meningococcal, typhoid and
yellow fever, the American troops were treated with Botulinum
Pentavalent, unlicensed in the United States, intended to counteract
Then they were treated with a vaccine against anthrax, a drug proven
to be teratogenic. In fact, women receiving it are warned not to have
children for at least three years.
Finally troops received Pyridostigmine bromide, not a vaccine, but
pre-treatment against nerve agents. That drug, normally used for
myasthenia gravis, is not approved by the Food and Drug
Administration as a nerve gas antidote and its side effects are
potentially very dangerous.
But those medicines were administered to US troops only, while the
Gulf War Syndrome affected also civilians and soldiers of other
Thus, no answer was given to the question: why do people living in
theatres of war and soldiers working under particular conditions
contract those diseases with such an alarming frequency?
Our Laboratory of Biomaterials of the University of Modena and
Reggio Emilia (Italy) is engaged in checking bioptic and autoptic
samples coming from patients belonging in the classes described
above. It is an indisputable fact that all samples contain inorganic
micro- and nano-particles, while it may be interesting to observe that
none of them show any trace of uranium.
>From the technical point of view, those very small fragments can be
detected by using an innovative technique of electronic microscopy
we developed and that has been already described in literature.
What we found were very small bits, sometimes agglomerated, of
simple or combined metals: Fe-Si, Cu-Cl-Zn, Si-Ti-Fe-Al, Si-Bi, Si-
Pb, Fe-Cu-Zn, Cr-Fe-Ni, Fe-Mn and, but just once, Zr alone.
The spherical shape, hollow in the larger sizes, of many particles
proves their formation under a very high temperature, a condition
compatible with that of the explosion of a DU shell.
DU projectiles hit very different targets, but specially buildings
armaments like, for example, tanks, and when they do, the
temperature in the core of the explosion exceeds 3,000°C, which
more than enough to have all solid matter sublime and, in some
cases, form new metal alloys. That gas expands over a large volume
of atmosphere, then, rapidly, the matter becomes solid again taking
the shape of very small spheres (down to 10-8 m diameter), stays
suspended in the air and is carried away over distances depending on
atmospheric conditions like wind, rain, snow and pressure. This
phenomenon was studied in 1977-78 at the US Air Force base of
After some time, all the air-borne particles fall slowly down and
settle on grass, vegetables, fruit or expanses of water where they
become inevitably a guest of food and drink to animals and men
alike. Even if that unwanted presence is known in advance – but very
often it is utterly ignored - getting rid completely of inorganic
particles can be very difficult. A good wash eliminates a great
quantity of debris from fruit or vegetables, but cauliflowers, for
example, cannot be cleaned thoroughly because of their rough
surface, while those particles that settle in the tissues of animals
ate contaminated grass and men eat as meat can’t be taken away at
Keeping in mind the well-known, even if never widely publicized,
phenomenon studied at Leglin and the new science of nano-
pathology, an explanation to the unanswered question becomes easy.
People present in firing grounds and in the theatres of war, and being
a soldier or a civilian makes no difference, breathe in micro- and
nano-particles while they are suspended in the air as an aerosol, then
eat and drink them along with vegetables and water.
We have amply demonstrated with our researches that once debris
that size (10-9 – 10-5 m) enter the body, be it via the digestive or
respiratory system, they can easily negotiate the luminal tissues and
either be captured by the tissue itself which acts the way a filter
does, or be transported by the blood or the lymph until they end their
travel in some organ (for instance the kidneys and the liver). Lymph
nodes, for example, are the organs where lymphomas start and
develop and where, in all pathological cases checked, we found the
presence of inorganic particles. But also all the other pathologic
specimens we had the possibility to observe show clearly and without
any single exception the presence of debris.
It is important to underline that none of the particles we found is
Just to give a further confirmation about the applicability of the
theory according to which the so-called Balkan Syndrome has an
environmental, nanopathological origin, particles found in the
diseased tissues of soldiers and civilians, and particles found in
ground of the territories where the pathologies were contracted are
If no uranium was ever detected, that does not necessarily mean there
is none somewhere in the tissues of the patients. The fact is likely
be due to its quantity, which is extremely scarce when compared with
the huge masses of the targets that sublime and that contain no such
element. It is also possible that uranium particles had been captured
by tissues but, probably because they did not reach a critical
threshold, did not trigger any disease and, as a consequence, we did
not have the chance to receive and study the samples.
In conclusion, DU’s responsibility is only indirect, and it is not
radioactivity to blame, but the very high temperature that uranium
produces once the shells of which it is a component hit the mark.
It is then possible that the Balkan Syndrome has a multi-factorial
origin including radioactivity and vaccinations, but the main cause
without any doubt a nanopathological one.
For further information about nanopathology