ABSTRACT

Concerns about the health hazards associated with the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions in the conflicts in the Balkans (1994–1999), and previously in the 1991 Gulf War, led to the formation by the United Kingdom Royal Society of a DU working group that undertook an independent assessment of the risks to health and the environment. Further data have become available since the publication of the two parts of the Royal Society report (Royal Society, 2001, 2002); new test firings 122of DU munitions have allowed more secure estimates of the likely intakes of DU on the battlefield (Capstone Report, 2004), and studies of the individual levels of exposure to DU of soldiers from these conflicts are now available. Additionally, DU munitions were deployed in the Iraq conflict of 2003 and, unlike in the earlier conflicts, timely monitoring for exposure of soldiers to DU has been carried out. This chapter briefly reviews the conclusions of the Royal Society report and of two subsequent major studies that estimate intakes of DU in the Gulf War. It discusses the consequent risks to health (Capstone Report, 2004; Sandia Report, 2005) and the available data on exposure levels derived from measuring the concentrations of DU in the urine of veterans from the three conflicts in which DU munitions have been used. Detailed reviews of the military uses of DU, and of the methods used to estimate intakes of DU and the risks to health, can be found in the Royal Society Capstone and Sandia reports and elsewhere in this volume.