Inhaled depleted uranium (DU) oxide aerosols are recognised as a distinct human health hazard and DU has been suggested to be responsible in part for illness in both military and civilian populations that may have been exposed.

University of Leicester geologist, Professor Randall R Parrish will be giving this message to the 119th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado on 28 October 2007 at 10.05-10.25am.

In his talk entitled: 'Depleted uranium (DU): its environmental dispersion and human uptake' he will outline his research findings on a new method of tracing DU.

The issue has been the subject of investigations by the Royal Society (UK), the National Academy of Science (US) and other bodies, but studies of individuals who have been clearly exposed to environmental contamination are lacking.

Professor Parrish commented: "Our objective was to develop a high sensitivity method of EU detection in urine, using MC-ICP mass spectrometry that would be capable of detecting an individual's exposure to DU up to 20 years after the event.

"We developed this method and applied it to individuals, either known or likely to have had a DU aerosol inhalation exposure, and to a large voluntary cohort of 1991 Gulf conflict veterans to assess DU exposure screening reliability and accumulate data on exposure."

Using his method, Professor Parrish and his research team have found traces of DU in urine more than 20 years later, in those cases where exposure to DU aerosol has been unambiguous and in sufficient quantity. This is true even when the U concentration is at the low end of the normal range.

Most such samples would return a negative screening result with other, less sensitive, methods.

Professor Parrish added: "Our method has been used to show that it is capable of resolving legal cases based on a claim of DU exposure. Also it shows that the occurrence of DU in 1991 Gulf Conflict veterans is likely to be uncommon to rare, but if a significant inhalation exposure occurred then it can be detected in urine for decades to come.

"It offers a way to resolve debates about DU and health and provide perspective on the issue. Resolving the potential implications of DU to health in contaminated populations is best done by properly testing exposed cohorts. The cohorts in need of study are those living in DU-contaminated areas of Iraq, or those living in the vicinity of DU munitions factories with large DU contamination footprints."

University Of Leicester

A member of the 1994 Group of universities that share a commitment to research excellence, high quality teaching and an outstanding student experience.

- Ranked top for student satisfaction in England (jointly with Oxford) among mainstream universities (average score of 4.4 out of 5 for overall satisfaction)

- Ranked as a Top 20 university by The Sunday Times University Guide, The Guardian University Guide and the UK Good University Guide

- One of just 23 UK universities to feature in world's top 200- Shanghai Jiao Tong International Index, 2005-07.

- Short listed University of the Year in 2007 by The Sunday Times and Short listed Higher Education Institution of the Year - THES awards 2005 and 2006

- Students' Union of the Year award 2005, short listed 2006

Founded in 1921, the University of Leicester has 19,000 students from 136 countries. Teaching in 18 subject areas has been graded Excellent by the Quality Assurance Agency- including 14 successive scores - a consistent run of success matched by just one other UK University. Leicester is world renowned for the invention of DNA Fingerprinting by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and houses Europe's biggest academic Space Research Centre. 90% of staff are actively engaged in high quality research and 13 subject areas have been awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level. The University's research grant income places it among the top 20 UK research universities. The University employs over 3,000 people, has an annual turnover of £184m, covers an estate of 94 hectares and is engaged in a £300m investment programme- among the biggest of any UK university.

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