The two main areas that were not adequately addressed before the Gulf War were:
The medical implications of embedded DU fragments in people and inhalation exposure estimates for friendly fire incidents, recovery activities, and incidental contact scenarios.
These are recognized weaknesses that are being addressed. The December 19, 2000 Environmental Exposure Report, Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II) includes the Army's latest health risk exposure estimates for various Gulf War exposure scenarios. Health risk estimates for DU-contaminated vehicle recovery and incidental contact scenarios indicate that these exposures were well within safety standards. Because of gaps in data pertaining to uranium oxide dust levels inside DU-struck vehicles, exposure estimates for personnel inside DU-struck vehicles at the time of impact, or immediately afterwards, were based on conservative assumptions. These estimates for this highest exposed group indicated that medical follow-up was warranted. DoD is currently in the process of conducting additional live-fire testing in order to further refine the exposure estimates for those troops in or around vehicles when they were hit by DU munitions. It is important to note that over 60 friendly-fire victims have been evaluated by the voluntary VA DU Medical Follow-up Program. Aside from the problems associated with their traumatic injuries, to date, this follow-up program has attributed no illness or other harmful effects in the evaluated veterans to DU.
The voluntary Veterans Affairs DU Medical Follow-up Program began in 1993-1994 with the medical evaluations of 33 friendly-fire DU-exposed veterans, many with embedded DU fragments. An additional 29 of the friendly-fire victims were added to the surveillance program in 1999. In 1998, the program was expanded to include Gulf War veterans who may have been exposed to DU through close contact with DU munitions, inhalation of smoke containing DU particulate during a fire at the Doha depot or while entering or salvaging vehicles that were hit with DU projectiles. The published results of these medical evaluations indicate that the presence of embedded DU fragments is the only scenario predictive of a high urine uranium value, and those with embedded DU fragments continue to have elevated urine uranium levels ten years after the incident. It is unlikely that an individual without embedded DU fragments would have an elevated urine uranium level, and consequently any uranium-related health effects. Those individuals with normal urine uranium levels now are unlikely to develop any uranium-related toxicity in the future, regardless of what their DU exposure may have been in the Gulf War. Those individuals with elevated levels of urine uranium ten years after the Gulf War have not developed kidney abnormalities, leukemia, bone or lung cancer, or any other uranium-related adverse outcome. The DU Medical Follow-up Program will continue to monitor those individuals with elevated urine uranium levels to enable early detection of any adverse health effects due to their continued exposure to DU.