Environmental Change > DU
exposure testing and assessment
exposure testing and assessment
NIGL has been testing for DU exposure using high precision, high sensitivity
uranium isotope measurements in urine, bone and teeth for more than
four years. In addition to research into human exposure in sites of
DU pollution, NIGL has measured for the UK's Depleted Uranium Oversight
more than 350 urine samples from potentially exposed individuals who
served in the Gulf and Balkans conflicts of the 1990s. The intention
is ultimately to provide a definitive measure of whether any significant
DU exposure is likely to have occurred. NIGL has also conducted one-off
testing for many other individuals for this purpose, including around
non-military sites of DU pollution. Currently NIGL is engaged in a
limited survey of DU uptake into humans in Iraq, in collaboration with
Iraqi medical colleagues keen to assess the extent of DU pollution
there. The test NIGL uses was developed in house and is the most sensitive
and definitive urinary uranium test worldwide, and it has been independently
verified for accuracy for all U isotopes (234U, 235U, 236U, 238U)
by blind quality assurance control measurements. Any enquiries, whether
for research or screening are welcome.
- NIGL DU tests on urine have been used in a High Court case to
resolve a civil lawsuit.
- DU tests have revealed DU exposure for samples that fall far
below the detection limit of alternative testing using ICP-MS.
- DU has been detected in individuals exposed to moderate and high
levels of inhaled DU oxide more than 25 years ago.
- NIGL DU testing has led measurement performance in simulated
urine interlaboratory uranium isotope trials run by the EU’s
- DUOB completes veterans’ testing programme.
- DUOB interlaboratory method for veterans’ testing published
in Health Physics.
Follow the links below for more detailed research information on depleted
Pollution and health research
The controversy as to whether DU poses a significant environmental
health risk is an emotive topic, with the extensive media attention
not sufficiently matched by good scientific studies or at times sensible
media analysis. While DU clearly is a hazardous material, the extent
to which its public health risks are widespread and significant is
entirely a function of the extent of exposure, primarily via inhalation.
There are to date no robust studies of the health of significantly
inhalation-exposed individuals, and there appear to be no studies planned
to significantly redress this issue. Research at NIGL in collaboration
with UK and international colleagues is addressing this issue from
the point of view of documenting exposure, studying the environmental
modification of DU aerosol particles, reconstructing aerosol dispersion
and initiating collaborative health studies in areas of known DU environmental
- Detailed study of historic DU pollution around a munitions factory
in the US reveals much more extensive pollution signal than previously
- Study of Iraqi children’s teeth initiated to attempt to
develop some information on the extent of DU uptake into the human
- Degradation and dispersion of DU aerosol particles around a point
source being studied by a joint BGS-University of Leicester-NIGL
Uranium isotope analysis, including all minor isotopes (i.e. 234U, 235U, 236U)
can be done on any environmental or biological material (fossil, bone,
urine, teeth, water, plants, soil, organic matter, etc.). The capability
is the most sensitive available anywhere, with the ability to make
such measurements on as little as a few tens of picograms of uranium
and a 236U detection limit of
less than 1 femtogram (10-15g).
Methods involve low blank chemical processing as necessary, multicollector
plasma ionisation mass spectrometry and laser ablation of solids. In
the near future, plutonium isotope analysis will be added to capabilities
to supplement the uranium measurements. These capabilities offer a
wide application to nuclear, environmental and health research.
- Blind testing of uranium isotope capability in 50 doped urine
samples accurately identified all DU and 236 U-doped
- Samples measured as part of the IRMM NUSIMEP interlaboratory
comparison campaign were accurate and precise in comparison with
certified values for all uranium isotopes.
- Measurements used in High Court case to assist in settling civil
lawsuit involving allegation of DU contamination.
- Inhalation exposure to DU more than 25 years prior successfully
verified in individuals using the NIGL urine test.
- Physical and isotope characterisation of aerosol DU oxide particles
added to capabilities.
- Methods published in Health Physics in 2006.