Elevated urine uranium excretion by soldiers with retained uranium shrapnel

Health Phys. 1999 Nov;77(5):512-9. doi: 10.1097/00004032-199911000-00004.


The use of depleted uranium in munitions has given rise to a new exposure route for this chemically and radioactively hazardous metal. A cohort of U.S. soldiers wounded while on or in vehicles struck by depleted uranium penetrators during the Persian Gulf War was identified. Thirty-three members of this cohort were clinically evaluated, with particular attention to renal abnormalities, approximately 3 y after their injury. The presence of retained shrapnel was identified by x ray, and urine uranium concentrations were measured on two occasions. The absorption of uranium from embedded shrapnel was strongly suggested by measurements of urine uranium excretion at two time intervals: one in 1993/1994 and one in 1995. Mean urine uranium excretion was significantly higher in soldiers with retained shrapnel compared to those without shrapnel at both time points (4.47 vs. 0.03 microg g(-1) creatinine in 1993/1994 and 6.40 vs. 0.01 microg g(-1) creatinine in 1995, respectively). Urine uranium concentrations measured in 1995 were consistent with those measured in 1994/1993, with a correlation coefficient of 0.9. Spot urine measurements of uranium excretion were also well correlated with 24-h urine collections (r = 0.95), indicating that spot urine samples can be reliably used to monitor depleted uranium excretion in the surveillance program for this cohort of soldiers. The presence of uranium in the urine can be used to determine the rate at which embedded depleted uranium fragments are releasing biologically active uranium ions. No evidence of a relationship between urine uranium excretion and renal function could be demonstrated. Evaluation of this cohort continues.

MeSH terms

  • Amputation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Burns
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Fractures, Bone
  • Humans
  • Middle East
  • Military Personnel*
  • United States
  • Uranium / urine*
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / urine*


  • Uranium
  • Creatinine