The Department of Defense released today an update to its environmental exposure report, "Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (II)," addressing information gained from ongoing investigations and research into the use of depleted uranium as it relates to U.S. servicemembers' exposure to the material during the Gulf War. Based on the scientific evidence developed so far, the report concludes it is unlikely that depleted uranium exposure is a cause of the undiagnosed illnesses some Gulf War veterans are experiencing. This conclusion is supported by a recent Institute of Medicine review of the scientific literature relating to depleted uranium.
The first interim report about depleted uranium was published in August 1998. This updated report reviews research conducted by both governmental and non-governmental agencies. It also includes the latest data available from a study the Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting on servicemembers who had the greatest exposure to depleted uranium during the Gulf War. Since 1993, the VA has monitored 33 veterans who were seriously injured in friendly-fire incidents involving depleted uranium. About half of this group still have depleted uranium metal fragments in their bodies. Additionally, this update refines previous Gulf War exposure assessments.
The first battlefield use of depleted uranium in tank armor and armor-piercing ammunition took place during the Gulf War. Military experts say that depleted uranium weapons and armor contributed to the overwhelming success of coalition forces during the Gulf War. But after the conflict, some veterans have expressed concern about the chemical toxicity and radiological properties of depleted uranium and possible health risks from its use.
Environmental exposure reports contain what is known today about certain events of the Gulf War. They are part of DoD's efforts to inform the public about its investigations into the nature and possible causes of illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans. This report is posted on DoD's website GulfLINK at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/du_ii/ . Other publications of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses are also listed at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/ .