Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

of people are thought to have experienced potential level III exposure, but there is little to substantiate the estimates.

The US Army conducted a study to model depleted-uranium aerosol exposures; the results of this study are presented in the “Capstone report” (USACHPPM, 2004). The exposure modeling characterized depleted-uranium aerosols as aerosols that would be generated by perforation of an Abrams tank or a Bradley fighting vehicle. Models were developed for level I, II, and III exposures. In addition, an evaluation of health outcomes of exposure to the depleted-uranium aerosols was conducted for level I inhalation exposures. Depending on the exposure scenario, the median intakes of depleted uranium range from 10 mg for a 1-min exposure in a ventilated Abrams tank with depleted-uranium armor to 710 mg for a 5-min exposure in an unventilated Abrams tank with depleted-uranium armor. The Capstone report is reviewed in detail in the National Research Council report Review of Toxicologic and Radiologic Risks to Military Personnel from Exposure to Depleted Uranium During and After Combat (NRC, 2008).

The Royal Society, which is the United Kingdom’s equivalent of a national academy of science, convened an independent expert working group to review the evidence on health effects of exposure to depleted uranium. The Royal Society’s “central estimate” (representative of the average person in the group of people exposed in that situation) for a level I inhalation exposure was 250 mg (Royal Society, 2001). The central estimates for level II and III exposures were 1-10 and 0.05-0.8 mg, respectively.

In a report prepared for the US Department of Energy, Marshall (2005) also estimated average exposures. The estimate for “nominal” level I inhalation exposure (representative of the average person in the group under study) was 250 mg, for level II exposure 40 mg, and for level III exposure 6 mg.

Military personnel potentially were exposed to depleted uranium during the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo wars (WHO, 2001). Aircraft-fired depleted-uranium munitions were used by the United States during those wars. Exposure would occur from handling munitions, from being protected by depleted-uranium–armored tanks, or after depleted-uranium use on the battlefield (Bolton and Foster, 2002). Urinary analyses have not found increased concentrations of uranium in several populations working in areas that might have been contaminated with depleted uranium: US National Guard troops deployed to Bosnia (May et al., 2004), German peacekeeping personnel serving in Kosovo (Oeh et al., 2007), and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement workers in Kosovo (Meddings and Haldimann, 2002).

As of September 30, 2007, 2,447 US military personnel who served in OIF had undergone a depleted-uranium bioassay (DOD, 2007). Ten of those personnel had confirmed urinary depleted uranium, and all ten had embedded fragments of depleted uranium or fragment injuries. Depleted-uranium concentrations were not found to be increased in 341 UK military personnel who were deployed to Iraq in 2003 (Bland et al., 2007).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement