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Mil Med. 2000 Aug;165(8):626-9.

A procedure for the rapid detection of depleted uranium in metal shrapnel fragments.

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  • 1Applied Cellular Radiobiology Department, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA.


Depleted uranium is now widely used in the armor of military vehicles as well as in kinetic-energy penetrators designed to defeat enemy armor. As a result, the potential that personnel will be wounded by depleted uranium fragments has increased. Because toxicities associated with depleted uranium fragments may ultimately require different treatment protocols than those used for traditional metal fragment injuries, a method to rapidly detect the presence of depleted uranium in surgically excised shrapnel fragments is required. By treating the shrapnel fragment with an extracting agent, such as nitric acid, for 5 minutes in an ultrasonic cleaner, sufficient metal is solubilized to allow for colorimetric detection using a pyridylazo dye. Although several metals are capable of being detected under these conditions, the reaction can be made specific for depleted uranium through the use of masking agents such as sodium citrate and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. This procedure allows for the rapid (< 15 minutes) extraction and detection of depleted uranium in metal shrapnel fragments.

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