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Battlefield Use Of Depleted Uranium And The Health Of Veterans
  1. Lt Col JPG Bolton, MBChB MSc DRCOG MRCGP MFPHM RAMC1 and
  2. Surg Cdr CRM Foster, MBChB DFFP MRCGP AFOM MSc RN2
  1. 1Surgeon General’s Department, St Giles Court, St Giles High Road, London WC2H 8LD
  2. 2Department of Submarine and Radiation Medicine Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2DL.

Abstract

Depleted uranium munitions have been used in recent military operations in both the Gulf and the Balkans and there have been concerns that exposure to depleted uranium may be a cause of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ and cancer clusters. We recount the properties of depleted uranium, its military uses and the situations in which personnel may be exposed. Following a review of scientific literature, the health effects of depleted and natural uranium exposure are described and the major outcomes of research into Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses are summarised. We conclude that, although there is the potential for uranium exposures to cause renal damage or lung cancer, the risk of harm following depleted uranium exposure in military settings seems to be low. We advise on the management of casualties exposed to depleted uranium and suggest control measures that may be appropriate to protect personnel who provide casualty care.

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