Depleted uranium (DU) has 60 percent of the radioactivity of natural uranium. It is a byproduct of creating the enriched product for nuclear reactors and weapons. Because of its density, easy availability, and relatively low cost, the U.S. military found it to be useful in manufacturing tank armor and some bullets to penetrate enemy armored vehicles. The large-scale use of DU for this purpose began during the Gulf War and has continued.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a surveillance program starting with Gulf War Veterans exposed to DU through “friendly fire” incidents over 25 years ago. Some veterans enrolled in this program have ongoing DU exposure resulting from DU fragments embedded in their bodies. Other veterans may have been exposed via by being near burning vehicles, near fires involving DU munitions, or in salvaging damaged vehicles. Riding in a vehicle with DU weapons or DU shielding did not expose a service member to significant amounts of DU or external radiation, according to the VA. Thus far, no health effects related to DU exposure have been found. However, the potential for long-term effects remains, and the group continues to be under surveillance.
A registry exists for veterans who are concerned about possible DU exposure during their service. If you would like to enroll, talk to a local Environmental Health Coordinator. The service eras involved are the Gulf War, Bosnia, OEF, OIF, or OND eras. You will be asked to submit a urine sample and to fill out an exposure questionnaire to screen for DU exposure. Click on the following links to learn more about DU exposure and the Follow-up Program.
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As of 7 November 2018