In what way has the DoD attempted to track service members exposed to depleted uranium during the 1990-1991 Gulf War?

We have categorized the DU exposure scenarios into three levels based on their relative exposures, and have conducted testing to estimate the maximum exposure that could be associated with those scenarios. The levels of possible exposure are described more fully on the Medical Follow-Up page of this website, which also contains links to DoD policy on management of exposures. Level I is the highest exposure group, soldiers who were in, on, or near combat vehicles at the time they were struck by depleted uranium rounds, and soldiers who entered these vehicles immediately afterwards to perform combat rescue. This exposure level also includes personnel who have been struck by DU fragments. Depleted uranium metal fragments have struck a number of US soldiers, and some of these still have embedded DU fragments. Others are believed to have inhaled or ingested DU particles, or had DU dust contaminate their wounds.

The voluntary Veterans Affairs (VA) DU Medical Follow-up program in Baltimore remains the most important source for identifying potential adverse health effects in those friendly-fire victims who have embedded DU fragments, or who may have inhaled significant quantities of DU particles. About one fourth of the Level I exposed individuals who have been evaluated by the VA still carry DU fragments in their bodies, and some of those with embedded fragments have elevated levels of urine uranium more than ten years after the Gulf War. None of the individuals with DU fragments have developed kidney problems, leukemia, bone or lung cancers, or any other uranium-related adverse outcomes. No birth defects have been reported in their children. As a result, there is no reason to believe that other exposed Service members have any elevated risk to their health due to their DU exposures. However, to be cautious, the DoD and the VA continue to medically follow veterans with high-level DU exposures to ensure there are no long-term health effects associated with these ongoing DU exposures. References to some of the research articles reporting follow-up results on these Service members and veterans can be found through Research Projects and Publications in this website, and going to "DeployMed ResearchLink" for Medical Research Publications: Environmental & Occupational Health\Depleted Uranium.

Level II exposures comprise soldiers who worked in and around combat vehicles (mainly US vehicles that were struck by friendly fire munitions) and as many as 600 personnel who took part in the clean up after the fire at Camp Doha, where DU munitions were burned in a fire. These exposures resulted in significantly lower estimated intakes of DU than the Level I exposures. The radiation estimates were less than the 0.1 rem per year guideline for members of the general public and much less than the 5 rem per year limit for radiation workers. The chemical exposure estimates were also well below the chemical toxicity guidelines.

Level III is an "all others" category for personnel whose incidental exposure to DU particles were very brief and are highly unlikely to have resulted in any medically significant exposure taking place. This group includes curious personnel who entered Iraqi equipment or personnel down wind from vehicles that burned after being struck by depleted uranium rounds. This group's estimated exposures were minimal.

A multidisciplinary team from the US Army Aberdeen Test Center, US Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center, USACHPPM, Batelle Memoral Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute conducted a study of the anticipated exposures under various scenarios, as well as the possible health effects or risks resulting from these exposures. The results were reported in the Capstone DU Project, comprised of two phases, the Capstone DU Aerosols Study, and the Capstone DU Human Health Risk Assessment. The Capstone DU Project realistically assessed possible exposures and risks for personnel in Levels I, II, and III. Both a summary fact sheet and the original study document are available. The Capstone DU Aerosols Study confirmed the value of ventilation in reducing possible exposures to DU aerosols inside vehicles struck by DU munitions, and clearly showed that simply getting out of DU-struck vehicles provided a way to significantly reduce exposures. The Capstone Depleted Uranium Human Health Risk Assessment determined there would be little or no impact on the health of service members who breathe in depleted uranium (DU) dust particles while inside tanks or other vehicles hit by DU munitions.

More information on combat exposures is also available at Tab O of "Environmental Exposure Report", Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II), or "Depleted Uranium-Human Exposure Assessment and Health Risk Characterization in Support of the Environmental Exposure Report 'Depleted Uranium in the Gulf' of the Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments (OSAGWI)".