Health effects of depleted uranium on exposed Gulf War veterans

Melissa A. McDiarmid, James P. Keogh, Frank J. Hooper, Kathleen McPhaul, Katherine Squibb, Robert Kane, Raymond Dipino, Michael Kabat, Bruce Kaup, Larry Anderson, Dennis Hoover, Lawrence Brown, Matthew Hamilton, David Jacobson-Kram, Belton Burrows, Mark Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


A small group of Gulf War veterans possess retained fragments of depleted uranium (DU) shrapnel, the long-term health consequences of which are undetermined. We evaluated the clinical health effects of DU exposure in Gulf War veterans compared with nonexposed Gulf War veterans. History and follow-up medical examination were performed on 29 exposed veterans and 38 nonexposed veterans. Outcome measures employed were urinary uranium determinations, clinical laboratory values, and psychiatric and neurocognitive assessment. DU-exposed Gulf War veterans with retained metal shrapnel fragments are excreting elevated levels of urinary uranium 7 years after first exposure (range 0.01-30.7 μg/g creatinine vs 0.01-0.05 μg/g creatinine in the nonexposed). The persistence of the elevated urine uranium suggests on-going mobilization from a storage depot which results in a chronic systemic exposure. Adverse effects in the kidney, a presumed target organ, are not present at this time, though other effects are observed. Neurocognitive examinations demonstrated a statistical relationship between urine uranium levels and lowered performance on computerized tests assessing performance efficiency. Elevated urinary uranium was statistically related to a high prolactin level (> 1.6 ng/ml; P = 0.04). More than 7 years after first exposure, DU-exposed Gulf War veterans with retained metal fragments continue to excrete elevated concentrations of urinary uranium. Effects related to this are subtle perturbations in the reproductive and central nervous systems. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-180
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Gulf War
  • Health effects
  • Metals
  • Toxicity
  • Uranium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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