The Gulf War depleted uranium cohort at 20 years: Bioassay results and novel approaches to fragment surveillance

Melissa A. McDiarmid, Joanna M. Gaitens, Stella Hines, Richard Breyer, Jade J. Wong-You-Cheong, Susan M. Engelhardt, Marc Oliver, Patricia Gucer, Robert Kane, Alison Cernich, Bruce Kaup, Dennis Hoover, Anthony A. Gaspari, Juan Liu, Erin Harberts, Lawrence Brown, Jose A. Centeno, Patrick J. Gray, Hanna Xu, Katherine S. Squibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


During the 1991 GulfWar, U.S. service members were exposed to depleted uranium (DU) through friendly-fire incidents involving DU munitions and vehicles protected by DU armor. Routes of exposure to DU involved inhalation of soluble and insoluble DU oxide particles, wound contamination, and retained embedded DU metal fragments that continue to oxidize in situ and release DU to the systemic circulation. A biennial health surveillance program established for this group of Veterans by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has shown continuously elevated urine DU concentrations in the subset of veterans with embedded fragments for over 20 years. While the 2011 assessment was comprehensive, few clinically significant U-related health effects were observed. This report is focused on health outcomes associated with two primary target organs of concern for long term effects of this combat-related exposure to DU. Renal biomarkers showed minimal DU-related effects on proximal tubule function and cytotoxicity, but significant biomarker results were observed when urine concentrations of multiple metals also found in fragments were examined together. Pulmonary tests and questionnaire results indicate that pulmonary function after 20 y remains within the clinical normal range. Imaging of DU embedded fragment-associated tissue for signs of inflammatory or proliferative reactions possibly associated with foreign body transformation or with local alpha emissions from DU was also conducted using PET-CT and ultrasound. These imaging tools may be helpful in guiding decisions regarding removal of fragments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-361
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • diagnostic imaging
  • excretion, urinary
  • exposure, radiation
  • uranium, depleted

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Epidemiology


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