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Mil Med. 2002 Feb;167(2 Suppl):117-9.

Health effects of embedded depleted uranium.

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  • 1Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA.


The health effects of embedded fragments of depleted uranium (DU) are being investigated to determine whether current surgical fragment-removal policies are appropriate for this metal. The authors studied rodents implanted with DU pellets as well as cultured human cells exposed to DU compounds. Results indicate that uranium from implanted DU fragments distributes to tissues distant from implantation sites, including bone, kidney, muscle, and liver. Despite levels of uranium in kidney that would be nephrotoxic after acute exposure, no histological or functional kidney toxicity was observed with embedded DU, indicating that the kidney adapts when exposed chronically. Nonetheless, further studies of the long-term health impact are needed. DU is mutagenic and transforms human osteoblastic cells into a tumorigenic phenotype. It alters neurophysiological parameters in rat hippocampus, crosses the placental barrier, and enters fetal tissue. Preliminary data also indicate decreased rodent litter size when animals are bred 6 months or longer after DU implantation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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