Depleted Uranium Health Effects
Discussion of health effects of external exposure, ingestion, and inhalation of depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium is not a significant health hazard unless it is taken into the body. External exposure to radiation from depleted uranium is generally not a major concern because the alpha particles emitted by its isotopes travel only a few centimeters in air or can be stopped by a sheet of paper. Also, the uranium-235 that remains in depleted uranium emits only a small amount of low-energy gamma radiation. However, if allowed to enter the body, depleted uranium, like natural uranium, has the potential for both chemical and radiological toxicity with the two important target organs being the kidneys and the lungs. The most likely pathways by which uranium could enter the body are ingestion and inhalation. The relative contribution of each pathway to the total uptake into the body depends on the physical and chemical nature of the uranium, as well as the level and duration of exposure.
The potential health risks associated with uranium compounds are discussed in further detail in Chapter 4 of the PEIS.