Environmental and health consequences of depleted uranium use in the 1991 Gulf War

Environ Int. 2004 Mar;30(1):123-34. doi: 10.1016/S0160-4120(03)00151-X.


Depleted uranium (DU) is a by-product of the 235U radionuclide enrichment processes for nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons. DU in the metallic form has high density and hardness as well as pyrophoric properties, which makes it superior to the classical tungsten armour-piercing munitions. Military use of DU has been recently a subject of considerable concern, not only to radioecologists but also public opinion in terms of possible health hazards arising from its radioactivity and chemical toxicity. In this review, the results of uranium content measurements in different environmental samples performed by authors in Kuwait after Gulf War are presented with discussion concerning possible environmental and health effects for the local population. It was found that uranium concentration in the surface soil samples ranged from 0.3 to 2.5 microg g(-1) with an average value of 1.1 microg g(-1), much lower than world average value of 2.8 microg g(-1). The solid fallout samples showed similar concentrations varied from 0.3 to 1.7 microg g(-1) (average 1.47 microg g(-1)). Only the average concentration of U in solid particulate matter in surface air equal to 0.24 ng g(-1) was higher than the usually observed values of approximately 0.1 ng g(-1) but it was caused by the high dust concentration in the air in that region. Calculated on the basis of these measurements, the exposure to uranium for the Kuwait and southern Iraq population does not differ from the world average estimation. Therefore, the widely spread information in newspapers and Internet (see for example: [CADU NEWS, 2003. http://www.cadu.org.uk/news/index.htm (3-13)]) concerning dramatic health deterioration for Iraqi citizens should not be linked directly with their exposure to DU after the Gulf War.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Middle East
  • Military Personnel*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / etiology
  • Seasons
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Uranium* / adverse effects
  • Uranium* / analysis
  • Warfare


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Uranium