Measurements of daily urinary uranium excretion in German peacekeeping personnel and residents of the Kosovo region to assess potential intakes of depleted uranium (DU)

U Oeh, N D Priest, P Roth, K V Ragnarsdottir, W B Li, V Höllriegl, M F Thirlwall, B Michalke, A Giussani, P Schramel, H G Paretzke
Science of the Total Environment 2007 August 1, 381 (1): 77-87
Following the end of the Kosovo conflict, in June 1999, a study was instigated to evaluate whether there was a cause for concern of health risk from depleted uranium (DU) to German peacekeeping personnel serving in the Balkans. In addition, the investigations were extended to residents of Kosovo and southern Serbia, who lived in areas where DU ammunitions were deployed. In order to assess a possible DU intake, both the urinary uranium excretion of volunteer residents and water samples were collected and analysed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). More than 1300 urine samples from peacekeeping personnel and unexposed controls of different genders and age were analysed to determine uranium excretion parameters. The urine measurements for 113 unexposed subjects revealed a daily uranium excretion rate with a geometric mean of 13.9 ng/d (geometric standard deviation (GSD)=2.17). The analysis of 1228 urine samples from the peacekeeping personnel resulted in a geometric mean of 12.8 ng/d (GSD=2.60). It follows that both unexposed controls and peacekeeping personnel excreted similar amounts of uranium. Inter-subject variation in uranium excretion was high and no significant age-specific differences were found. The second part of the study monitored 24 h urine samples provided by selected residents of Kosovo and adjacent regions of Serbia compared to controls from Munich, Germany. Total uranium and isotope ratios were measured in order to determine DU content. (235)U/(238)U ratios were within +/-0.3% of the natural value, and (236)U/(238)U was less than 2 x 10(-7), indicating no significant DU in any of the urine samples provided, despite total uranium excretion being relatively high in some cases. Measurements of ground and tap water samples from regions where DU munitions were deployed did not show any contamination with DU, except in one sample. It is concluded that both peacekeeping personnel and residents serving or living in the Balkans, respectively, were not exposed to significant amounts of DU.

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