[ RadSafe ] Sandia completes depleted uranium study

James Salsman james at bovik.org
Fri Jul 22 12:31:42 CDT 2005

Bob Cherry asks about this Sandia National Laboratory study:


Most telling is perhaps the quote, "This assessment should not
be interpreted to be a general validation of the SNL National
Securities Studies Department methodology for studying the
consequences of terrorist use of radiological dispersal devices."
In other words, it's not good enough to correctly predict the
effects of uranium combustion weapons.  By the way, did anyone
notice how Jose Padilla is now charged with plotting to blow up
high-density housing with "natural gas" instead of uranium?  UO3
gas is both natural and artificial.

I agree that Table ES-1 on page 12 indicates a 24% increase in
fatal cancer risk and an 8% increase in birth defects, and
ignores chemical toxicity by reporting radiological risk only.
Also, "veterans" is apparently used to mean "all veterans,"
instead of "exposed veterans," as far as I can tell.  Please let
me know if I am wrong about that.  Uranium causes 1e+6 more DNA
damage from chemical toxicity than from its radiological hazard.
Miller, et al., J Inorg Biochem, vol. 91, no. 1 (2002), pp.
246-252:  http://www.bovik.org/du/Miller-DNA-damage.pdf
Therefore, if only 5% of veterans were exposed, then the risk
ratios for the exposed are 4.8e+6 for fatal cancer, and 1.6e+6
for birth defects, above the radiological risks reported.

However, I can not agree with the study because it is self-
contradictory.  In earlier sections in section 1.2 on scope, it
claims to include complete evaluation of both radiological and
nonradiological hazards, but Section 5.2 on p. 72, "Other Heavy
Metal Effects," reads:

> Some evidence has been reported for the possibility of other
> chemical effects associated with uranium internalization (see
> Appendix D).... Among the tested veterans, McDiarmid’s team
> observed a statistically lower score in [a] neurocognitive
> test for veterans with high uranium concentrations in their
> urine....
> Veteran, animal, and in vitro testing suggests that a few 
> other chemically induced health effects are possible, such
> as reproductive effects and chemically induced cancers....

A few?  There are over 30 categories of congenital malformation.

> Uranium is also deposited in the kidney, liver, lymph  nodes,
> and other organs in small quantities....

-- ignoring testes and gonocyte contamination --

> Some evidence has been reported for other chemical effects
> associated  with uranium internalization. In vitro studies suggest
> that DU can  induce malignant transformations with frequencies
> similar to those  observed with the nonradioactive heavy metal
> carcinogens, nickel and  lead. Studies by Benson et al. on female
> rats with DU implants have  shown that uranium can cross the
> placental  barrier....

So, female reproductive toxicities are considered, but not male?

> Furthermore, no excess health effects  of any type have been
> observed  from epidemiological studies for uranium workers [12].

No excess health effects of any type?  [D-12] is A. Bordujenko,
'Military Medical Aspects of Depleted Uranium Munitions,' ADF
Health, vol. 3 (September 2002.)  Way out of date!  Several
excess health effects have been observed in epidemiological
studies of uranium workers.

> The incremental risk of DU-induced birth defects for civilians 
> is estimated by multiplying the equivalent dose to the gonads
> by 0.013 per person-Sv.

"0.013" should be "1e+6".  No wonder they used radiological risk
and not chemical risk in the executive summary.

Therefore, the risk ratios are 4.8e+6 for fatal cancer, and
1.6e+6 for birth defects among the exposed.  Is that right?

James Salsman

More information about the RadSafe mailing list