Medical effects of internal contamination with actinides: further controversy on depleted uranium and radioactive warfare

Abstract

The Nuclear Age began in 1945 with testing in New Mexico, USA, and the subsequent bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Regardless of attempts to limit the development of nuclear weapons, the current world arsenal has reached the staggering dimensions and presents a significant concern for the biosphere and mankind. In an explosion of a nuclear weapon, over 400 radioactive isotopes are released into the biosphere, 40 of which pose potential dangers including iodine, cesium, alkaline earths, and actinides. The immediate health effects of nuclear explosions include thermal, mechanical, and acute radiation syndrome. Long-term effects include radioactive fallout, internal contamination, and long-term genotoxicity. The current controversial concern over depleted uranium’s somatic and genetic toxicity is still a subject of worldwide sustained research. The host of data generated in the past decades has demonstrated conflicting findings, with the most recent evidence showing that its genotoxicity is greater than previously considered. Of particular concern are the osteotropic properties of uranium isotopes due to their final retention in the crystals of exchangeable and nonexchangeable bone as well as their proximity to pluripotent stem cells. Depleted uranium remains an unresolved issue in both warfare and the search for alternative energy sources.

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The author declares that there are no financial or any other conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Asaf Durakovic.

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Durakovic, A. Medical effects of internal contamination with actinides: further controversy on depleted uranium and radioactive warfare. Environ Health Prev Med 21, 111–117 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-016-0524-4

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Keywords

  • Radioactive warfare
  • Depleted uranium
  • Organotropic radioisotopes
  • Nuclear proliferation
  • Internal contamination with radionuclides