Exposure to particles of depleted uranium (DU), the source of growing international concern as a potential health hazard, may increase the risk of genetic damage and lung cancer, scientists in Maine conclude in a report scheduled for the May 21 issue of ACS' Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.
DU is the material remaining after removal or depletion of the U-238 isotope of uranium. With a density about twice that of lead, DU is ideal for use in military armor and munitions, John Pierce Wise, Sr., and colleagues point out in the new study. DU dust produced in combat creates potentially frequent and widespread exposure for soldiers and non-combatants, who may inhale DU dust particles, the researchers note.
However, there have been few studies on the health effects of lung exposure to DU, they add. In the new study, researchers tested the effects of DU on cultures of human lung cells.
"This is the first article on the cytotoxicity and clastogenicity [chromosome damaging potential] of particulate and soluble DU in human bronchial cells," the study states. "These data suggest that exposure to particulate DU may pose a significant genotoxic risk and could possibly result in lung cancer."
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