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Because of the metal’s density and metallurgical properties, depleted uranium (DU) saw widespread use during the Persian Gulf War in improved armor and antiarmor rounds of increased penetrating power. This report examines the scientific literature regarding possible health effects on U.S. troops of exposure to DU. While very little literature directly addresses DU, a wide body of literature deals with the health effects of natural uranium and enriched uranium. DU is toxicologically identical to natural uranium and radiologically more benign because it is less radioactive. No increase in overall deaths has been observed as a result of exposure to natural uranium in several epidemiological studies. The literature review paid close attention to the ongoing study of a group of GulfWar Veterans who received the highest exposure to DU. Those with embedded fragments have elevated urine uranium levels, but researchers report neither adverse renal effects attributable to DU nor any adverse health effects related to DU radiation.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Health Effects

  • Chapter Three

    Concluding Remarks and Future Research

  • Appendix A

    Principal Decay Scheme of the Uranium Series

  • Appendix B

    Principal Decay Scheme of the Actinium Series

  • Appendix C


  • Appendix D

    Single-Particle Lung Dosimetry

  • Appendix E

    Exposure to Radon (222RN) and Its Decay Products

  • Appendix F

    UNSCEAR Tables

  • Appendix G

    Measured Deep Dose Rates for M60A3 and M1 Tanks

This research was sponsored by the RAND National Security Research Division and RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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