Biological monitoring and surveillance results of Gulf War I veterans exposed to depleted uranium


Objective: To relate medical surveillance outcomes to uranium biomonitoring results in a group of depleted uranium (DU)-exposed, Gulf War I veterans. Methods: Thirty-two veterans of Gulf War I who were victims of ‘friendly fire’ involving DU weapons, in whom exposure assessment can accurately be measured, had urine uranium concentrations determined using ICP-MS technology. Clinical laboratory parameters were measured and related to urine uranium concentrations. Data were examined by stratifying the cohort into a low U group, <0.10 µg/g creatinine versus a high U group, =0.10 µg/g creatinine and assessing differences between groups. Results: Over a decade after first exposure, soldiers possessing embedded DU fragments continue to excrete elevated concentrations of uranium in urine. No clinically significant uranium related health effects were observed in blood count, blood chemistries including renal markers, neuropsychological measures, and semen quality or genotoxicity measures. Markers of early changes in renal glomerular and tubular function were not statistically different between groups; however, genotoxicity measures continue to show subtle, mixed results. Conclusion: Persistent urine uranium elevations continue to be observed more than 12 years since first exposure. Despite this, renal and other clinical abnormalities were not observed, likely due to the ‘relatively’ low uranium burden in this cohort compared to historical uranium-exposed occupational groups. Continuing surveillance is indicated, however, due to the on-going nature of the exposure. These results are an important finding in light of the on-going controversy regarding health effects observed in soldiers of the Gulf War and other conflicts, whose uranium exposure assessment is unable to be accurately determined.

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