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, 17 (5-10), 180-91

A Review of the Effects of Uranium and Depleted Uranium Exposure on Reproduction and Fetal Development


A Review of the Effects of Uranium and Depleted Uranium Exposure on Reproduction and Fetal Development

D P Arfsten et al. Toxicol Ind Health.


Depleted uranium (DU) is used in armor-penetrating munitions, military vehicle armor, and aircraft, ship and missile counterweighting/ballasting, as well as in a number of other military and commercial applications. Recent combat applications of DU alloy [i.e., Persian Gulf War (PGW) and Kosovo peacekeeping objective] resulted in human acute exposure to DU dust, vapor or aerosol, as well as chronic exposure from tissue embedding of DU shrapnel fragments. DU alloy is 99.8% 238Uranium, and emits approximately 60% of the alpha, beta, and gamma radiation found in natural uranium (4.05 x 10(-7) Ci/g DU alloy). DU is a heavy metal that is 160% more dense than lead and can remain within the body for many years and slowly solubilize. High levels of urinary uranium have been measured in PGW veterans 10 years after exposure to DU fragments and vapors. In rats, there is strong evidence of DU accumulation in tissues including testes, bone, kidneys, and brain. In vitro tests indicate that DU alloy may be both genotoxic and mutagenic, whereas a recent in vivo study suggests that tissue-embedded DU alloy may be carcinogenic in rats. There is limited available data for reproductive and teratological deficits from exposure to uranium per se, typically from oral, respiratory, or dermal exposure routes. Alternatively, there is no data available on the reproductive effects of DU embedded. This paper reviews published studies of reproductive toxicity in humans and animals from uranium or DU exposure, and discusses ongoing animal research to evaluate reproductive effects in male and female rats embedded with DU fragments, and possible consequences in F1 and F2 generations.

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