Depleted uranium in Kosovo: an assessment of potential exposure for aid workers

David R Meddings, Max Haldimann
Health Physics 2002, 82 (4): 467-72

BACKGROUND: During the Kosovo conflict approximately 11 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used against armored targets, predominantly in the west. Potential exposure to uranium amongst employees of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in western Kosovo was assessed.

METHODS: Individuals (n = 31) who had resided at least 3 mo in western Kosovo provided 24-h urine collections and completed an administered questionnaire. Specimens were analyzed for creatinine concentration, and uranium concentration was determined using inductively coupled mass spectrometry.

FINDINGS: Subjects ranged in age from 22 to 45 y, and 77% were male. Mean duration of residency was 11 mo, and 14 individuals were in western Kosovo throughout the hostilities. Almost three quarters of subjects reported seeing destroyed tanks or vehicles, predominantly while passing by within a vehicle. Two individuals spent time within 50 m of a destroyed tank or vehicle while outside of a vehicle. Urinary uranium concentrations ranged from 3.5 to 26.9 ng of uranium per liter of urine (median 8.9 ng L(-)). Creatinine normalized values ranged from 2.9 to 21.1 ng of uranium per gram of creatinine (median 7.4 ng g(-1) creatinine). These results fall toward the lower end of urinary uranium determinations made amongst non-exposed populations drawn from a literature review.

INTERPRETATION: These results do not indicate an increased exposure to uranium amongst adults living and working in western Kosovo who do not spend time in proximity to destroyed vehicles. Environmental sampling and replication of these results amongst a sample including children and individuals reporting intensive exposure to destroyed vehicles would further develop the exposure assessment.

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