According to the EPA:
"The greatest health risk from large intakes of uranium is toxic damage to the kidneys, because, in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal. Uranium exposure also increases your risk of getting cancer due to its radioactivity. Since uranium tends to concentrate in specific locations in the body, risk of cancer of the bone, liver cancer, and blood diseases (such as leukemia) are increased. Inhaled uranium increases the risk of lung cancer."
Heavy Metal Poisoning from DU
Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include:
- chronic renal (kidney) failure
- mental confusion, cognitive dysfunction, short-term memory loss and depression
- pain in muscles and joints (arthralgias)
- gastrointestinal upsets, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, food intolerances/allergies
- vision problems
- chronic fatigue and weakness
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- hemolytic anemia
- weight loss
- peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness in hands and feet)
- impotence, loss of libido
- depression of thyroid and adrenal function
The symptoms are so vague and diverse that it is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Life is sustained by continuous chemical reactions in the body. Heavy metals bind to the chemicals (catalysts, enzymes) and prevent them from working properly.
According the the EPA, this is how Uranium poisoning is diagnosed:
"Tests are available to measure the amount of uranium in a urine
or stool sample. Hospitals do not perform these tests routinely.
These tests are useful if a person is exposed to a large amount
of uranium, because most uranium leaves the body in the feces
within a few days after ingestion. Uranium can be found in the
urine for up to several months after exposure. However, the amount
of uranium in the urine and feces does not always accurately show
the level of uranium to which you may have been exposed. Since
uranium is known to cause kidney damage, special urine tests are
often used to determine whether kidney damage has occurred."
Note that if the test is not performed within a day or two of exposure, the insoluable uranium will have already left the body and may not be detected in the urine and stool. The remaining (soluable) uranium is still in the body is doing its damage undetected by these tests.
Radiological Effects of Uranium
In the lung, depleted uranium may cause fibrosis of the irradiated lung tissue and lung cancer. From the lungs, DU can enter the blood over subsequent years, effecting the liver and kidney. DU can be incorporated into bones. Research indicates that Uranium Oxide (UOx) concentrates in the gonads (reproductive organs). There the combination of heavy metal poisoning and radiation can cause birth defects and sterility.
After DU migrates to the bones, it can irradiate the sensitive stem cells which form the white blood cells, especially the monocytes. Clinical manifestations include depressed cellular immune system. Uranium can pass the placenta causing congenital malformation and can be carried to the infant in mothers milk. It can damage the ovum and sperm causing genetic damage.
...DU bioassays will be administered to all personnel who routinely enter damaged vehicles as part of their military occupation or who fight fires involving DU munitions (Level II exposure category)...
Toxic and Radiation Effects Combine
The idea that chemical and radiological damage are reinforcing each other is very plausible and gaining momentum, says Carmel Mothersill, head of the Radiation and Environmental Science Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland....Uranium is "genotoxic". It chemically alters DNA, switching on genes that would otherwise not be expressed. The fear is that the resulting abnormally high activity in cells could be a precursor to tumour growth...Miller points to another reason to be concerned about DU: the so-called
"bystander effect". There is a growing consensus among scientists that radiation damages more than just the cells it directly hits. Read more.
World Health Research Paper
Results: DU/RU dusts are a mixture of oxides of differing solubility, such that, if retained in the lung, partial dissolution occurs over the time scale of about a month. As DU has been shown to be capable of transforming human cells to a tumourigenic phenotype without the involvement of radiation, such particles present a unique radiological/chemical toxic hazard. The bystander effect may be of relevance where an alpha-particle emitter of low specific activity is distributed over the lung.
Conclusions: The health risks of exposure to DU/RU are likely to be only partially reflected by the radiation dose per received. Further work on the chemical transforming ability of DU, the potential for an interaction between its chemical and radiological toxicities and the significance of the bystander effect in this context is required to fully estimate the public health significance of exposure to DU/RU. Read more.
Burning DU Behaves Like a Poison Gas
The pyrophoric effect of depleted uranium, which spontaneously burns when heated to 170 C (once it is fired) and on impact, effectively forms very large numbers of extremely fine (0.1 micron) and submicroscopic particles as small as 0.001 micron or 10 Ångstroms (see Attach. 3 - Chart “Characteristics of Particles and Particle Dispersoids”) as described in the memo. Particles in this size range behave like a gas when inhaled, disperse in the lungs to the blood lung barrier where the white blood cells (greater than 7microns in diameter) engulf the tiny particles of depleted uranium and carry them throughout the body. Once these particles have been engulfed by blood cells or lodged in tissues, they may not be detectable in the urine. Contaminated personnel will take the depleted uranium home, deposited in tissues throughout their bodies. [Read more]
There is no known treatment for exposure.
US Army Contaminating Our Soldiers
MORET: If they were in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, they're coming home with rectal cancer from sitting on ammunition boxes. The young women are reporting terrible problems with endometriosis. That's the lining of the uterus malfunctioning, and they just bleed and bleed and bleed. Some of them have uterine cancer - 18 and 19 and 20 year olds. [read more]
Tiny size of Burned DU Particles Allows Them to Cross Blood/Brain Barrier
"When inhaled through the nose, nano-particles can cross the olfactory bulb directly into the brain through the blood brain barrier, where they migrate all through the brain," she wrote. "Many Gulf Era soldiers exposed to depleted uranium have been diagnosed with brain tumors, brain damage, and impaired thought processes. Uranium can interfere with the mitochondria, which provide energy for the nerve processes, and transmittal of the nerve signal across synapses in the brain. [Read More]
National Institute of Health Study Indicts DU in Genetic Damage
Animal studies firmly support the possibility that DU is a teratogen.
While the detailed pathways by which environmental DU can be
internalized and reach reproductive cells are not yet fully elucidated,
again, the evidence supports plausibility. To date, human
epidemiological data include case examples, disease registry records, a
case-control study and prospective longitudinal studies. [Read more]
Did the use of Uranium weapons in Gulf War 2 result
in contamination of Europe?
Charts and data tables showing a four-fold increase in Uranium air levels in Brittian coinciding with DU boMarch 22, 2006ept.pdf">Read more . A layperson's summary.
Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated...
“This malady (from uranium munitions), that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. ...Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of ‘Disabled Vets’ means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!” The disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent; it was higher, 10 percent, in Viet Nam.
“The VA Secretary (Principi) was aware of this fact as far back as 2000,” wrote Bernklau. “He, and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts..." [emph added]
Uranium Medical Research Center
Studies indicating Iraq Service people contaminated with DU. Read more.
VA Service-Related Death and Disability Statistics
UN Report on DU Contamination in Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
26. UNEP's work on depleted uranium (DU) started in the summer of 1999, when UNEP carried out
an assessment of the impact of the Kosovo conflict on the environment and human settlements. As part
of this overall assessment, UNEP conducted a Desk Assessment of the potential effects of the possible
use of DU during the conflict. In 2000, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) provided the
United Nations with new information concerning the use of DU during the Kosovo conflict. This
information included maps, number of rounds used, and coordinates of the targeted areas. This enabled
UNEP to carry out the first-ever international assessment of DU when used in a real conflict situation.
The final report, entitled "Depleted Uranium in Kosovo - A Post-Conflict Assessment" was published in
27. The work on DU in the Balkans was not closed following the publication of the Kosovo DU
report. During the Kosovo conflict, a few sites outside Kosovo, in Serbia and Montenegro, had also
been targeted with ordnance containing DU. Following the precautionary approach advocated by UNEP
and to reduce uncertainties about the environmental impacts of DU, it was evident that a second phase
of scientific work would be needed. This second phase started in September 2001 and was concluded in
March 2002 with the publication of the report "Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro - Post-
Conflict Environmental Assessment". The report provided additional information and revealed
important new discoveries on the environmental behaviour of DU.
28. Based on these findings, a third study was required in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to
determine the environmental impacts and potential health risks of DU seven years after its use in
conflict in 1994-1995. UNEP organized a team of international experts to investigate 15 sites in Bosnia
and Herzegovina in October 2002. Five of these 15 sites were areas where NATO had reported using
DU munitions. The remaining 10 sites were areas where the local population or authorities were
concerned that DU might have been used. One of the 15 sites was inaccessible for UNEP due to the
heavy presence of mines. The team used highly sensitive instruments including alpha and beta meters to
measure surface radioactivity, and also relied on laboratory analyses.
29. The 17-member UNEP team included experts from UNEP, the Swedish Radiation Protection
Authority, Spiez Laboratory (Switzerland), Italy's Environmental Protection Agency and Technical
Services (APAT, former ANPA), the Internat ional Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health
Organization (WHO), the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the US Army Centre for Health
Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM), the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian
Academy of Sciences, and the University of Bristol (UK). Spiez and APAT also analysed the collected
samples of penetrators, water, vegetation and so forth for toxicity and radioactivity. The mission was
funded by the Governments of Italy and Switzerland.
30. The final UNEP report on DU i n Bosnia-Herzegovina was launched on 25 March 2003. The
report confirms for the first time that DU from weapons used in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994 and
1995 contaminated local supplies of drinking water at one site, and can still be found after 7 years in
dust particles suspended in the air. The recorded contamination levels, however, are very low and do not
present immediate radioactive or toxic risks for the environment or human health.
31. Overall, the findings in Bosnia and Herzegovina are consistent wit h previous UNEP studies in
Kosovo (2001) and in Serbia and Montenegro (2002). However, the report also cites four new and
significant findings about how DU behaves in the environment. First, ground contamination occurs at
DU penetrator impact points at low levels, and is localized to areas typically limited within 1-2 metres.
Second, DU penetrators buried near the ground surface have corroded rapidly losing 25% of their mass
over seven years. The DU penetrators will corrode completely within 25 - 35 years after impact. Third,
the report records the first instance of DU contamination of groundwater. The previous UNEP
assessments of DU in the Balkans were made shortly after the end of conflict, while in Bosnia and
Herzegovina the seven years that had passed since the conflict have allowed the corroding of DU to
penetrate the soil and contaminate the groundwater. When contamination is found, UNEP recommends
that alternative water sources be used and that regular water sampling and measurements continue for
several years. Finally, DU contamination of the air was found at two different sites, including inside two
buildings. This is due to the re-suspension of DU particles from penetrators or contamination points due
to wind or human actions.
32. The report's recommendations include collecting the penetrators from the ground, covering
contamination points with asphalt or clean soil, handling and disposing of DU material properly,
decontaminating buildings and other places used by people, keeping records of DU sites, inve stigating
all health claims and obtaining the missing coordinates of six confirmed attack sites in Bosnia and
33. In addition to DU contamination, the UNEP team found that mine clearance personnel, as well
as the general public, were not sufficiently aware of the risks and issues surrounding DU ammunition.
As a result, UNEP organized a DU awareness training session for de-miners in Bosnia-Bosnia-Herzegovina in
October 2004 and produced an informative brochure on potential risks from DU.
DU Mutagenic and a Carcinogen
Previous studies at AFFRI indicate that exposure to DU or HMTA causes changes in cells, both in vivo and in vitro, suggesting that DU has carcinogenic potential. DU induces a dose- and time-dependent increase in the expression of specific oncogenes in kidney, muscle, and liver of rats implanted with pellets of DU. No oncogene increases were observed in rodents implanted with the non-toxic metal tantalum. Significant increases in both micronuclei and sister chromatid exchanges, indicators of genotoxic damage, were measured in lymphocytes obtained from DU-implanted rats 18 months after implantation, but not in tantalum-implanted rats. Injection of sodium tungstate into Fischer rats produced significant increases in both micronuclei and SCE. Urine from DU-implanted animals was mutagenic; a consequence of the presence of excreted DU. Exposure of cultured human bone cells to DU or HMTA resulted in a transformation of those cells to a type with biochemical and growth characteristics typical of tumor cells. The magnitude of transformation observed with DU and HMTA was similar to that observed with the known heavy metal carcinogen, nickel. These cells, once transformed, produced tumors when injected into immune deficient mice. DU and HMTA were also shown to be genotoxic and mutagenic in model system studies. Read more.