Depleted Uranium: Getting a 2nd Opinion

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DOD photo / Terri Moon Cronk

Shrapnel removed from service members and veterans ranges in size from bullets to large shards of metal that fit the palm of a hand.

Remember the controversy over the Pentagon’s armor-killing depleted-uranium rounds that were widely used for the first time in 1991’s Gulf War? Many troops blamed them for the various ills that came to be known as Gulf War syndrome. The Pentagon spent a lot of time saying there was no known link. “The available evidence,” the Pentagon said in 1998, “does not support claims that DU caused or is causing the undiagnosed illnesses some Gulf War veterans are experiencing.”

More than 20 years after that war, a Pentagon office – the Joint Pathology Center’s Biophysical Toxicology and Depleted Uranium/Embedded Metal Fragment Laboratories branch (whew!) – continues to track veterans who suffered DU shrapnel wounds.

A Pentagon news story notes:

The lab analyzes all combat-associated metal fragments taken from DOD personnel that might pose a long-term health risk, such as depleted uranium, which can contribute to kidney damage over time…While many service members and veterans have retained fragments because of high risks removing them would pose…some alloys such as depleted uranium are not safe to leave in the body.

Good to know, and good they continue to track this stuff.