Depleted uranium contamination by inhalation exposure and its detection after ∼20 years: Implications for human health assessment

Randall R. Parrish, Matthew Horstwood, John G. Arnason, Simon Chenery, Tim Brewer, Nicholas S. Lloyd, David O. Carpenter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Inhaled depleted uranium (DU) aerosols are recognised as a distinct human health hazard and DU has been suggested to be responsible in part for illness in both military and civilian populations that may have been exposed. This study aimed to develop and use a testing procedure capable of detecting an individual's historic milligram-quantity aerosol exposure to DU up to 20 years after the event. This method was applied to individuals associated with or living proximal to a DU munitions plant in Colonie New York that were likely to have had a significant DU aerosol inhalation exposure, in order to improve DU-exposure screening reliability and gain insight into the residence time of DU in humans. We show using sensitive mass spectrometric techniques that when exposure to aerosol has been unambiguous and in sufficient quantity, urinary excretion of DU can be detected more than 20 years after primary DU inhalation contamination ceased, even when DU constitutes only ∼ 1% of the total excreted uranium. It seems reasonable to conclude that a chronically DU-exposed population exists within the contamination ‘footprint’ of the munitions plant in Colonie, New York. The method allows even a modest DU exposure to be identified where other less sensitive methods would have failed entirely. This should allow better assessment of historical exposure incidence than currently exists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)58-68
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008


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