Depleted uranium (DU) is the remnants after the removal of the highly radioactive elements (isotopes) of uranium used in the production of nuclear weapons and nuclear fuels. The DU used in enhanced armour protection and armour-piercing munitions for Abrams tanks is also used in civilian industries mainly as stabilizers in boats and planes.
The entrance of depleted uranium
DU enters the body through embedded fragments, inhalation, ingestion, and contaminated wounds. DU health effects are quite similar to those of other heavy metals. Heavy metals such as uranium and lead are harmful when taken in large amounts. Your kidneys, however, filter a higher percentage of uranium that gets to the blood and excreted in the form of urine. Only very high levels of uranium are known to damage kidneys.
Depleted uranium is dangerous to human life
Uranium has been reported to contain affinity within the body for DNA, the chemical bonding to it. This occurs when human bone cells are exposed to DU. The fragment, causing breaking always from chromosomes as well as reforming abnormally, and also the mutations are passed from parent to child. If depleted uranium is ingested it will be harmful because of its chemical toxicity, while high concentration cause human kidney.
U.S. invasion of Iraq has left behind a legacy of cancer and birth defects suspected of being caused by the U.S. military’s extensive use of DU and white phosphorus.
Screening and Follow-up Program
VA offers a screening program for veterans concerned about exposure to Depleted Uranium during wars. The program involves feeling in a questionnaire and completing a spot urine collection test. If the results show any chances of veteran’s exposure to depleted uranium with DU-contaminated wounds or form embedded fragments, the Depleted Uranium Follow-up Program follows the following steps:
- The victim undergoes through comprehensive physical exams
- The second step entails clinical tests of the function of the organ system
- Finally, recommendations for treatment inclusive of surgical removal of the embedded fragments. Up to now, there has been no reported case of any veteran exposure to DU. However, both researchers and clinicians are still monitoring the health status of these Veterans.
Reference Links: calvet.ca.gov/VetServices/Pages/Depleted-Uranium.aspx, health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Health-Readiness/Environmental-Exposures/Depleted-Uranium
Credits: archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=42238, flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/27100883222/in/photostream/, flickr.com/photos/iaea_imagebank/4723344137