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Military mini-symposium
  1. D. Coggon
  1. MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton
    UK

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    156 DEPLETED URANIUM EXPOSURE IN UK VETERANS OF THE 1990/91 GULF WAR AND THE BALKANS CAMPAIGN

    Objectives:

    To develop and deliver a voluntary testing program for UK veterans of the 1990/91 Gulf War and the Balkans campaign, who wished to know whether they had been significantly exposed to depleted uranium (DU).

    Methods:

    Under the supervision of the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board, a test was developed based on the measurement of uranium isotopes in 24 h samples of urine by highly sensitive mass spectrometry methods. Initial pilot work showed that the test was capable of detecting an increase in the U238:U235 ratio as low as 144 in samples containing less than 5 ng per litre uranium (the U238:U235 ratio of natural uranium being 137.9). Biokinetic calculations indicated that this level of sensitivity would be more than adequate to detect DU excretion in veterans that (according to mainstream medical opinion) would be of practical relevance to health, either through radiation effects or through chemical toxicity. The main testing program was widely advertised, and was available on request to eligible veterans during September 2004 to January 2006. The continuing performance of the two analysing laboratories was monitored by blinded analysis of duplicate samples, and of spiked samples prepared by a third laboratory.

    Results:

    Findings from the duplicate analyses and from blinded analysis of spiked samples confirmed that the expected performance of the two analysing laboratories was maintained over the course of the testing program. None of the 464 veterans who were tested in the main program had detectable exposure to DU. Total 24 h excretion of DU exceeded 30 ng in eight samples, the highest value being 497 ng.

    Conclusion:

    Because participants were self-selected, their exposures may not have been representative of all who were eligible for testing. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that clinically significant exposure of British military personnel to DU in the Gulf War and Balkans, if it occurred at all, …

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