Rita Hindin (Biostatistics and Epidemiology Concentration, University of Massachusetts)
School of Public Health and Health Sciences,
Doug Brugge (Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine)
Bindu Panikkar (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts School of Engineering)
Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2005, 4:17!oi:10.1186/1476-069X-4-17
Depleted uranium is being used increasingly often as a component of
munitions in military conflicts. Military personnel, civilians and
the DU munitions producers are being exposed to the DU aerosols that
We reviewed toxicological data on both natural and depleted uranium.
We included peer reviewed studies and gray literature on birth
malformations due to natural and depleted uranium. Our approach was
to assess the weight of evidence with respect to teratogenicity of
Animal studies firmly support the possibility that DU is a teratogen.
While the detailed pathways by which environmental DU can be
internalized and reach reproductive cells are not yet fully
elucidated, again, the evidence supports plausibility. To date, human
epidemiological data include case examples, disease registry records,
a case-control study and prospective longitudinal studies.
The two most significant challenges to establishing a causal pathway
between (human) parental DU exposure and the birth of offspring with
i) distinguishing the role of DU from that of exposure to other
ii) documentation on the individual level of extent of parental DU
exposure. Studies that use biomarkers, none yet reported, can help
address the latter challenge.
Thoughtful triangulation of the results of multiple studies
(epidemiological and other) of DU teratogenicity contributes to
disentangling the roles of various potentially teratogenic parental
exposures. This paper is just such an endeavor.
In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with
increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU.