The Chemistry and Toxicology of Depleted Uranium

Article English OPEN
Sidney A. Katz (2014)
  • Publisher: MDPI AG
  • Journal: Toxics (issn: 2305-6304)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3390/toxics2010050
  • Subject: DU friendly fire | TP1-1185 | DU chemistry | depleted uranium | Chemical technology | DU toxicology | DU munitions
    mesheuropmc: complex mixtures | inorganic chemicals | technology, industry, and agriculture

Natural uranium is comprised of three radioactive isotopes: 238U, 235U, and 234U. Depleted uranium (DU) is a byproduct of the processes for the enrichment of the naturally occurring 235U isotope. The world wide stock pile contains some 1½ million tons of depleted uranium. Some of it has been used to dilute weapons grade uranium (~90% 235U) down to reactor grade uranium (~5% 235U), and some of it has been used for heavy tank armor and for the fabrication of armor-piercing bullets and missiles. Such weapons were used by the military in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and elsewhere. The testing of depleted uranium weapons and their use in combat has resulted in environmental contamination and human exposure. Although the chemical and the toxicological behaviors of depleted uranium are essentially the same as those of natural uranium, the respective chemical forms and isotopic compositions in which they usually occur are different. The chemical and radiological toxicity of depleted uranium can injure biological systems. Normal functioning of the kidney, liver, lung, and heart can be adversely affected by depleted uranium intoxication. The focus of this review is on the chemical and toxicological properties of depleted and natural uranium and some of the possible consequences from long term, low dose exposure to depleted uranium in the environment.
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